South Africa on Sunday introduced new COVID-19 restrictions to help curb the spread of the coronavirus as the country inches into a third wave of the pandemic.

Iran Press/Africa: “After several months of low transmission, the number of infections has begun to rise sharply in several parts of the country,’’ President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation.

He said the country has seen a sustained increase of cases over the last four weeks, with the last seven days recording an average of 3,745 daily new infections.

“This is an increase of 31% on the previous week and an increase of 66% on the week before that,’’ he said.

South Africa, the most affected country on the continent, has recorded nearly 1.66 million cases, 56,363 deaths, and 1.5 million recoveries representing a recovery rate of 93.7%, according to the Health Ministry figures.

Ramaphosa said that with the new sharp increase in cases it may only be a matter of time before the country as a whole descends into a third wave.

“While the country is headed towards the third wave of infections, we do not yet know how severe this wave will be or for how long it will last,’’ he said.

South Africa's leader noted that according to health experts, the new surge in infections is due to the increasing number of social gatherings where people are not observing essential health protocols.

He said that in a bid to curb the spread and delay a looming third wave, the country will move from Level 1 -- a softer lockdown -- to an adjusted Level 2 lockdown starting Monday.

Some of the new restrictions announced include the new curfew hours, starting at 11 p.m. and ending at 4 a.m.

Wearing a face mask that covers the nose and mouth at all times in public spaces is mandatory and not complying with this is a criminal offense, according to the new restrictions.

The president also announced that funerals remain restricted to no more than 100 people, and, as before, night vigils, and after-funeral gatherings are not allowed.

Bars and restaurants have to close by 10 p.m. for employees and patrons to leave before the curfew.