S.Africa tightens COVID-19 restrictions

South Africa has introduced tighter social restrictions as a new strain of the coronavirus spreads rapidly across the country.

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Monday. He said, "the number of new coronavirus infections is climbing at an unprecedented rate."

He said the new variant is now well established in South Africa, and that the recent rise is "a cause for great alarm."

The president said indoor and outdoor gatherings will be banned. He also said shops, bars and other businesses will need to close by 8 p.m.

Ramaphosa announced an extension to the hours of a nighttime curfew, and the nation's third ban on sales of alcohol since the coronavirus outbreak began.

He said accidents and violent incidents related to alcohol are putting pressure on emergency hospital units.

The president urged South Africans to wear masks and take other measures. He also said the latest restrictions could be reviewed in the next few weeks if there is a sustained decline in the number of new infections.

South Africa's daily tally began to increase in late November, having earlier peaked in July.

Local health officials believe the new strain is behind the recent rise.