The ongoing Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in South Africa wil be further eased, which will pave the way for the reopening of more sectors of the economy, President Cyril Ramaphosa said.
The cabinet has decided to move to level two restrictions from the current level three, starting from midnight on Monday, meaning “we can remove nearly all of the restrictions on the resumption of economic activity across most industries”, Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation on Saturday.
All restrictions on inter-provincial travel, opening of restaurants and bars, and sales of tobacco and alcohol will be lifted, while family and social visits will be allowed, Xinhua news agency quoted the President as saying.
The relaxation followed the reduction of coronavirus cases in recent days.
Over the last three weeks, the number of new confirmed cases has dropped from a peak of over 12,000 a day to an average of 5,000 over the past week, according to Ramaphosa.
The number of patients hospitalized has decreased from 10,000 to around 4,000 this month, significantly reducing the pressure on health facilities, he said.
But while there are indeed signs of hope, South Africans cannot and must not let their guard down, the President added.
“As we continue to ease restrictions, the risk of infection does not diminish,” he said, adding that the risk becomes greater as more people return to work with more opportunities to interact.
“We therefore cannot become complacent or abandon the health precautions that we know we need to take.”
Even the slightest lapse in alertness at this moment could lead to a resurgence of infections at a rate and on a scale far greater than before, Ramaphosa warned.
“We have seen this happen in other countries, where stringent restrictions have had to be reimposed at short notice as the rate of infection rises after relaxation,” the President said.
Now is the time for even greater vigilance and even greater care, he added.
Therefore, the current restrictions on international travel, gatherings of more than 50 people will remain in place, and the National State of Disaster will be once again extended until September, Ramaphosa said.
The total number of Covid-19 cases in South Africa stood at 583,653, with 11,667 deaths.