President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa will move back to lockdown level 1.
In a national address on Sunday evening (28 February), the president said that the eased restrictions come nearly a year after the first Covid-19 case was first reported in the country.
He added that the country has now clearly passed its second wave in Covid-19 cases, with most people adhering to tighter restrictions and observing basic health protocols.
Ramaphosa outlined the following changes to restrictions:
- The evening curfew will remain in place, but will now run from 00h00 to 04h00;
- The sale of alcohol is permitted in line with normal licence conditions, but may not be sold during hours of curfew;
- Gatherings will be permitted subject to limitations on size and health protocols – this includes religious, social, political and cultural gatherings;
- The maximum number of people at any gathering is 100 for indoor and 250 for outdoor – subject to floor space.
- Night vigils before and after funerals are still not permitted;
- Nightclubs remain closed;
- The wearing of masks in public places is still compulsory – failing to do so is a criminal offence;
- Some land border posts remain closed and five international airports will be open.
The new alert level will come into effect later on Sunday evening, once the regulations have been gazetted.
The five airports open for international travel are:
- OR Tambo International Airport
- Cape Town International Airport
- Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport
- King Shaka International Airport
- Lanseria Airport
The 33 land border posts that have been closed throughout this period will remain closed, while the other 20 will remain open.
“As we ease restrictions we cannot let our guard down. The few remaining restrictions aim to it infections and prevent super spreader events,” Ramaphosa said.
The threat of a third wave is constantly present – as is the threat of new variants, he said.
In the 10 days since launching its vaccine programme, Ramaphosa said that nearly 67,000 healthcare workers have been vaccinated to date, with a further 80,000 Johnson and Johnson vaccines arriving in the country this week.
He added that the number of Covid-19 vaccination sites will be expanded from 17 to 49 sites in the next week. Once all healthcare workers have been vaccinated, phase 2 of the vaccine rollout will begin, he said.
The president said that phase 2 will target the elderly, public-facing service workers and those with co-morbidities. This phase is set to begin at the end of April and the beginning of May.
Ramaphosa said the government has also concluded agreements with manufacturers such as Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson to ensure that it will have enough vaccines.
This week the National Treasury said that it has allocated R9 billion to fund the country’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout strategy.
Tabling the Budget Review on Wednesday, Treasury said ensuring access to Covid-19 vaccines is government’s immediate priority. “Over the medium term, R9 billion is allocated for vaccine rollout,” it said.
“Of this amount, the Department of Health is allocated R6.5 billion to procure and distribute vaccines.
“An amount of R100 million will be transferred to the South African Medical Research Council for vaccine research. Provincial health departments are allocated R2.4 billion to administer vaccines.”
As announced by the minister of health, Dr Zweli Mkhize in January 2021, South Africa’s three-phase vaccine rollout strategy aims to vaccinate 67% of the population over a 12-month period.
“Access to vaccinations will be provided free of charge, in line with need and the rollout schedule. Funding for vaccine procurement and rollout is drawn from the national budget.
“Since the state is procuring vaccines on behalf of both the public and private sectors, some revenue will return to the fiscus when private providers buy vaccines from the state.”