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COVID-19 Delta variant detected in Free State

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Staff Reporter

The rapidly spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus has been detected in the Free State as well as four other provinces in the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa has said.

The other provinces are the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.

Ramaphosa said this when he announced on Sunday evening that the country was moving to Alert Level 4 for the next 14 days in light of the sustained daily increases of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

“We now have the Delta variant,” the president said in the televised address.

The variant was first detected in India at the end of March this year and is now found in 85 countries.

“The Delta variant spread like wildfire in India in an alarming manner . . . the evidence we have is that the Delta variant is rapidly displacing the Beta variant, which has been dominant in our country until now,” he said.

“We are concerned about the rapid spread of this variant.”

According to Ramaphosa, the Delta variant is more transmissible than previously circulating viruses, meaning it is easier to catch through person-to-person contact.

He said it is thought to be twice as contagious as the Beta variant.

And because it is more contagious, it can infect far more people.

“As with the previous variants, you can pass it on without even knowing you have it . . . there is now emerging scientific evidence that people previously infected with the Beta variant do not have full protection against the Delta variant, and may get re-infected,” said Ramaphosa.

“And because it is much more contagious, the measures we have so far adopted to contain the spread of the virus may no longer be sufficient to reduce transmission.”

It is however not clear if the Delta variant causes more severe symptoms or not.

“Preliminary data from other countries suggests that it is not more severe,” said the president.

“Reports from some countries, including from our continent, also suggest that infections and clinical illness in children may be more common with the Delta variant, even as the overall rate of infection remains substantially lower than in adults.

“The rapid spread of this variant is extremely serious.”

The following measures will be in place across the country from tomorrow until Sunday, July 11:

  • All gatherings – whether indoors or outdoors – are prohibited. These include religious, political, cultural and social gatherings.
  • Funerals and cremations are permitted, but attendance may not exceed 50 people and all social distancing and health protocols must be observed.
  • Night vigils, after-funeral gatherings and ‘after-tears’ gatherings are not allowed.
  • Public spaces, such as beaches and parks, will remain open. However, no gatherings will be permitted.
  • A curfew will be in place from 9pm to 4am, and all non-essential establishments will need to close by 8pm.
  • The sale of alcohol both for on-site and off-site consumption is prohibited.
  • Restaurants and other eateries will only be permitted to sell food for take-away or delivery. This is because it is not possible for patrons to wear masks while eating or drinking in these establishments.

The closure of schools and other educational institutions for the winter holidays will be brought forward.

Schools will start closing from Wednesday, June 30, and all schools will be expected to be closed by the end of the week on Friday.

Contact classes at tertiary institutions will also end by Wednesday and there will be limited access to the institutions.

Ramaphosa said the Ministerial Advisory Committee advised that the limited restrictions previously imposed were not that effective and that a prohibition on alcohol sales will ease the pressure placed on hospital services by alcohol-related emergency incidents.

He said because of the burden of infections in Gauteng, travel in and out of the province for leisure purposes will be prohibited.

This does not include work, business or commercial travel, transit through airports or for the transportation of goods.

Visits to old age homes, care facilities and other ‘congregant settings’ will be restricted.

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Parts of Free State may not have power for up to three weeks

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PROLONGED BLACKOUT LOOMS . . . Eskom says consumers in some parts of the Free State may not have electricity for up to three weeks

Eskom has warned consumers in the south-eastern Free State that they may not have electricity for up to three weeks due to voltage constraints on the network feeding the Melkspruit Substation.

The power failure resulted in electricity users in Zastron, Rouxville and Smithfield as well as those fed directly by Eskom on the RVZ and RVS 22 kV lines experiencing outages over the past weekend.

Eskom’s spokesperson in the Free State, Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg, said the problem may persist until major work on a line from the Northern Cape is completed.

“The voltage constraint on the network will persist until construction of structures on the Ruigtevallei-Valleydora 132 kV line in the Northern Cape is completed,” said Van Rensburg as she urged consumers to remain patient while the supply challenge is addressed.

“Free State teams are currently assisting to speed up the process. It is however expected that work will take two to three weeks to complete.”

“In the meantime, electricity users are urged to use electricity sparingly, especially during the morning and evening peak hours, to prevent trips,” she added.

South Africa has been experiencing rolling blackouts in recent weeks due to what Eskom has described a “continued shortage of generation capacity”.

On Sunday, the national power utility said in a separate statement it had about 3 028 megawatts on planned maintenance, while another 14 992 megawatts of capacity were unavailable due to breakdowns.

While the loadshedding is meant to ease pressure on the national grid and avoid a total collapse of the system, the practice has reportedly caused damage on some lines when power is switched back on.

Eskom has always said loadshedding is implemented only as a last resort to protect the national grid and promised to limit the implementation of loadshedding to the evening peak in order to limit the impact of the capacity shortages on the public. – Staff Reporter

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Minister shuts down troubled Free State water supplier

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MOVE GAZETTED . . . Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu has disestablished Sedibeng Water

Staff and key assets from the embattled Sedibeng Water Board are set to be transferred to the Bloemwater and Magalies water boards following the gazetting of the move by Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu last week.

The department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said in a statement the development is in line with the minister’s commitment to review the country’s water boards to enable them to perform optimally while enhancing the delivery of water to municipalities and ultimately to households.

The decision to disestablish Sedibeng Water – which served Matjhabeng, Masilonyana and Nala local municipalities, among others – means its staff, assets and liabilities will be absorbed by Bloemwater in the Free State and Magalies in Gauteng.

The move, according to Ratau, was initiated by the minister following his working sessions with provincial governments, various water services authorities and water boards regarding issues of governance, financial viability as well as accountability and broader service delivery issues after taking office in August last year.

“The review is based on considerations of financial sustainability, servicing areas that are not currently serviced and is also intended to address institutional confusion caused by having multiple water boards serving the same area,” said Ratau.

“The disestablishment of Sedibeng Water is in accordance with section 28 of the Water Services Act of 1997 which affords Minister Mchunu the authority to disestablish a water board.

“The gazette was published on Friday, 20 May 2022 and will remain open to the public for a period of 40 days.

“Members of the public and all interested parties are invited to make comments in writing on the disestablishment of the board.”

The department said it will ensure there is smooth transition of the disestablishment and that water service provision to communities is not affected.

Based in Bothaville, Sedibeng Water was established to, among others, treat wastewater and supply potable water in a viabile and sustainable manner.

However, in recent years, some of the municipalities served by the water board have struggled over the years to pay on time for the bulk water supplies even though residents have argued that they pay their monthly bills on time.

At the end of March this year, Sedibeng reportedly owed its service providers over R5-billion as it was struggling to secure payment from several municipalities. – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung warns residents to brace for heavy rainfall

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DISRUPTIVE DOWNPOUR LOOMING . . . Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned heavy rainfall is expected to pound the capital

The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned residents in and around the Free State capital to brace for heavy rainfall that could cause flooding this Friday.

The municipality is urging drivers to take extra caution by reducing speed and switching their headlights on, while pedestrians are being reminded to be careful when crossing the road and to avoid crossing rivers and streams where water is above the ankles.

“Residents of Mangaung Metro, particularly in the former Naledi region, are urged to be cautious on the road and in their homes as the South African Weather Service has issued an impact-based warning . . . for possible disruptive rainfall,” the metro said in a statement.

“This warning is valid for Friday, 20 May 2022 until Saturday, 21 May 2022.”

“Heavy rains are also predicted in Bloemfontein on Friday,” it added.

“Localised flooding can be expected in susceptible low-lying areas, roads, formal/informal settlements and bridges.” – Staff Reporter

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