President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that a number of South Africa’s lockdown regulations will be relaxed as the country moves to a level 1 lockdown from midnight on Sunday (20 September).
In a national address on Wednesday evening (16 September), the president said that the country has ‘withstood the storm’ in its fight against the coronavirus and that the data shows a clear downward trend in the country.
However, he cautioned that ‘by any measure we are still in the midst of a deadly epidemic’ and said that the most important task is ensuring that the country is not hit by a second wave of infections as is being seen internationally.
To help prevent a possible second wave, Ramaphosa said that the government will expand its testing to include more categories of people. He said that the government also plans to step up its contact tracing capabilities.
Ramaphosa said that South Africa is also participating in a World Health Organisation initiative to ensure access and distribution to a successful coronavirus vaccine at a lower cost. Local experts are also working on a vaccine.
As Covid-19 cases decrease, the president said that the country will move to lockdown level 1 from midnight on Sunday (taking effect at midnight, or 00h01 on Monday), with restrictions eased in the following areas:
Gatherings will be allowed as long as the number of people do not exceed 50% of the normal capacity of a venue – up to a maximum of 250 people for indoor gatherings and 500 people for outdoor gatherings;
Maximum capacity at funerals has been increased to 100 people;
Night vigils are still prohibited;
Venues such as gyms and recreational facilities have had limits increased to 50% of total capacity;
Existing restrictions on sporting events remain in place.
The government will gradually ease restrictions on international travel for business and leisure from 1 October – subject to containment measures. A list of permitted countries will be published and based on the latest scientific data;
International travel will only be allowed through the main border ports or through OR Tambo International, Cape Town International, or King Shaka International;
Travellers will need to provide a negative coronavirus certificate or will be put into quarantine at their own cost;
All travellers will be required to install the Coivd-19 alert level app.
The evening curfew will apply between 00h00 and 04h00;
Alcohol for home consumption can be sold between 09h00 – 17h00 from Monday to Friday;
On-site consumption will be allowed subject to adherence to the curfew;
More government facilities will return.
Ramaphosa said that this will be the ‘new normal’ and that updated restrictions will be gazetted over the next few days, providing more clarity.
New economic recovery plan
The move to level 1 comes after the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) has agreed to an action plan for South Africa’s economic recovery.
The plan is directed towards building confidence and placing South Africa on a path of investment and growth.
“Social partners have identified priority areas for rebuilding the economy as well as structural reforms and other programmes which will enable sustainable and inclusive growth with an intensive focus on job creation,” the presidency said.
While the final details of the plan will only be announced once it is finalised by cabinet, the presidency said that a core focus will be on addressing Eskom’s structural and funding problems.
“Social partners have also agreed on a social compact which commits government, business, labour and community to mobilising funding to address Eskom’s financial crisis in a sustainable manner – in return for an efficient, productive and fit-for-purpose Eskom that generates electricity at affordable prices for communities and industries,” it said.
Another key pillar of the plan will be infrastructure, with a massive development drive seen as key to driving recovery post-lockdown and creating jobs.
This comes after the presidency published a list of ‘priority infrastructure projects’, which is expected to pave the way for the beginning of private investment in a R2.3 trillion programme over the next decade.