Nearly a year after placing the country on a hard lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday eased South Africa’s Covid-19 restrictions from Level 3 to Level 1.In a televised address to the nation on Sunday night, Ramaphosa said the country “has now clearly emerged from the second wave” of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“New infections, admissions to hospital and deaths have fallen significantly and continue to decline steadily,” he said.
He revealed that South Africa recorded just under 10,000 new Covid-19 infections during the past week compared to over 40,000 cases registered in the corresponding week in January.
He, however, warned that while restrictions have been relaxed due to a fall in new Covid-19 cases, fellow South Africans should not let their “guard down” for fear of a potential third wave.
“As we ease restrictions, we cannot let our guard down. The few remaining restrictions under Alert Level 1 are meant to maintain low levels of infections and, in particular, to prevent super-spreading events,” Ramaphosa said.
He said the eased restrictions would see a more open atmosphere for business activities in the hope that companies would return to their business plans to reemploy those who lost their jobs during the pandemic and create more jobs for the economy.
He, however, reminded his compatriots that the prevention protocols were still in force, and those not wearing masks in public would be arrested or forced to pay a fine for failure to protect others from the disease.
Under the new Level 1 of the lockdown restrictions, the country’s current curfew hours would move from midnight (2200 GMT) to 4am, an hour later than has been in Level 3.
The easing of the restrictions would also result in gatherings — including religious, social, political and cultural gatherings — being permitted but subject to limitations on size, adherence to social distancing and other health protocols, the president said.
The sale of alcohol would now be permitted according to normal licence provisions, he said, adding that no alcohol would be sold during the curfew hours, however.
As the country starts a new week of eased measures, the president said the 33 land border posts that had been closed throughout Level 3 lockdown would remain closed, while the other 20 entry ports would remain opened.
During Level 1 air travellers will have five airports open for international travel only – but with standard infection control measures, the president said.
These are OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, Cape Town International Airport, King Shaka International Airport in Durban, Kruger Mpumalanga Airport in Kruger National Park and Lanseria Airport in Pretoria, he said.
South Africa declared an outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, and the disease has taken the lives of 49,000 people, according to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize this week.