South Africa bans liquor sales over Easter to prevent surge

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FILE In this Friday, March 26, 2021 file photo, healthcare workers queue to receive a dose of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa. In a television address to the nation Tuesday, March 30, 2021, Presidential Cyril Ramaphosa outlined the progress and the future of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and put in place some minor restrictions for the Easter weekend. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, file)

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa will restrict the sale of alcohol and limit the size of religious and social gatherings over Easter to prevent the holiday from contributing to a new surge of COVID-19, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Tuesday.

“Given the role of alcohol in fuelling reckless behavior, we will put in place some restrictions over the Easter weekend," Ramaphosa said in an address broadcast nationwide.

He said retail sales of alcohol will be banned Friday through Monday. Bars and restaurants will be able to sell alcoholic beverages but will be required to close at 11 p.m.

A maximum of 250 people will be allowed at indoor religious gatherings while 500 people are allowed for outdoor events.

Ramaphosa's announcement came after he consulted health experts and religious leaders on Tuesday to discuss ways to curb the spread of new infections.

South Africa now has a cumulative number of more than 1.5 million infections since the outbreak of the virus last year, the highest in Africa. A total of 52,788 people have died from COVID-19 in the country.

Ramaphosa said his government is doing everything possible to expand the country's vaccine campaign.

So far South Africa has vaccinated just over 251, 000 health care workers as part of a Johnson & Johnson study, far short of 1.25 million health workers to be vaccinated as part of the first phase of the country's vaccination program.