President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that most of South Africa will move to level 3 lockdown restrictions by the end of May.
Speaking in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday (13 May), Ramaphosa said that this easing will be area-specific as there a number of coronavirus ‘hotspots’ in the country.
He noted that coronavirus infections in the country are primarily concentrated in a few municipalities and that these areas will remain at lockdown level 4.
Ramaphosa added that government will introduce new regulations in the coming days to relax level 4 restrictions around issues such businesses, exercise and e-commerce.
The president said that the country is ready to move to a new phase, following a move to level 4, on 1 May.
“We are now preparing for a further easing of the lockdown,” he said. “We will therefore proceed to move cautiously. Our goal is to steadily increase economic activity.”
The president admitted that implementation around coronavirus related laws has at times been slow, and enforcement inconsistent and harsh.
“Some of the actions we have taken have been unclear, some have been contradictory and some have been poorly explained. Implementation has sometimes been slow and enforcement has sometimes been inconsistent and too harsh.
“We are committed to ensure that all decisions are rational and reasonable,” the president said.
He pledged to uphold people’s rights.
The president warned that the transition to the next phase of the coronavirus response will in many ways be more difficult than the present one. The risk of infection outbreaks will increase as more people return to work, he said.
Ramaphosa said that the lockdown government imposed was ‘absolutely necessary’.
“Without the lockdown the number of coronavirus cases would have soared uncontrollably, and our health facilities would have been overwhelmed,” he said.
“There have been several projections about the path the disease would have taken without our swift action. The best current estimate is that without the lockdown at least 80,000 South Africans could have been infected by now and the death toll could have been eight times higher.
“At a similar stage in the progression of the disease, countries such as the United States had reported more than 22,000 deaths. If we lift the lockdown abruptly we risk an unmanageable rise in infections.”
Ramaphosa has announced that there are now 12,750 confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Africa.
This is an increase of 724 cases from the 11,350 cases reported on Tuesday, with the country having recorded 698 new infections in the prior 24 hour period.
Ramaphosa said on Wednesday (13 May), that the total number of deaths has now reached 219. This is an increase of 13 deaths from the 206 reported on Tuesday.
Nine million screenings and 370,000 tests have been conducted to date.
— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) May 13, 2020