President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa’s adjusted level 3 lockdown regulations will be relaxed following a decline in Covid-19 transmissions.
In a national address on Monday (1 February), the president said that the country has recorded its lowest daily increase in infections since December, and that the country has now passed the peaked of the second wave.
The average number of daily infections has almost halved, while the number of hospital admissions has also dropped, the president said.
While the indicators are pointing in the right direction, Ramaphosa said that that the number of transmissions in the country is still relatively high.
However, the president acknowledged that restrictions cannot continue for longer than necessary due to their harmful impact on the economy.
To this effect, he said that the government will ease restrictions as follows:
- The hours of the curfew will now be from 23h00 – 04h00. Businesses such as restaurants will need to close by 22h00 to accommodate travelling for staff and customers;
- Faith-based gatherings will now be permitted, subject to health protocols. This includes a limit of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors;
- Public places such as beaches and parks will be reopened, subject to health protocols;
- Alcohol sales are permitted, with off-sites sales permitted between Monday and Thursday between 10h00 and 18h00. On-site sales, at places such as restaurants, are permitted throughout the week between 10h00 and 22h00;
- Political, sports and other gatherings are still not permitted;
- Funerals may not be attended by more than 50 people;
- It remains compulsory for every South African to wear a mask in a public place.
“I want to call on all of us to drink responsibly so that we do not experience a spike in trauma cases or an increase in infections due to reckless behaviour. As we ease restrictions once again, the responsibility on each and every one of us as individuals becomes even greater,” the president said.
“Let us remember that despite the clear progress we have made, the number of new cases is still high and there is an ever-present danger of a resurgence.”
The eased restrictions comes after South Africa received its first consignment of one million Covid-19 vaccines on Monday afternoon.
These vaccines will now be tested for their integrity after their trip from India, after which they will be distributed to healthcare as part of the country’s phase 1 rollout.
The country will then move to phase 2 of its roll out which will include essential workers, the elderly and those living with co-morbidities. This will be further extended all adult South Africans in phase 3.
An online registration system will allow South Africans to book a place at a local vaccination centre as soon as they qualify, Ramaphosa said. The president confirmed that an additional 500,000 vaccines will arrive later February, also from India.
He confirmed that an additional nine million vaccines have been purchased through Johnson & Johnson, and a further 20 million will be purchased through Pfizer. These vaccines will first be made available in Q2 2021, the president said.
The president said that the country will achieve herd immunity once 67% of the population has been vaccinated. This amounts to around 40 million South Africans.
Nobody will be forced to take the vaccine or be forbidden from travelling anywhere or taking part in any activity if they have not been vaccinated, he said.
“We all want to be free of this disease. We all want to be safe, and for those we love to be safe. We aim to make the vaccine available to all adults living in South Africa, regardless of their citizenship or residence status,” the president said.