President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that lockdown restrictions in South Africa will be relaxed following a decline in the number of daily recorded COVID-19 cases in the country.
In a national address on Monday 1 February, Ramaphosa announced that a number of restrictions will be lifted, including the nationwide ban on the sale of alcohol.
“We have recorded our lowest daily increase in infections since the beginning of December last year,” Ramaphosa said. “The average rate of new infections has been steadily coming down over the past few weeks, indicating that we have now passed the peak of the second wave.”
“The average number of daily new infections has come down to almost half of what it was. The number of hospital admissions has now also fallen to 295 on 29 January,” he said.
As a result of this, lockdown restrictions across the country will be eased, including the following:
- The sale of alcohol at licensed premises for off-site consumption is permitted from 10:00 to 18:00 from Monday to Thursday.
- The sale of alcohol at licensed premises for on-site consumption is permitted throughout the week from 10:00 to 22:00.
- The curfew will now be enforced from 23:00 to 04:00.
- Establishments where people go for entertainment or otherwise will need to close at 22:00.
- Faith-based gatherings will now be permitted subject to health and gathering protocols.
- Public places such as beaches and parks will be reopened subject to health protocols.
The wearing of masks when in public remains compulsory.
Ramaphosa said that South Africa today received its first consignment of the COVID-19 vaccine, comprising 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The President applauded the pace of vaccine development and thanked South African researchers and those who had participated in vaccine trials.
“The speed and scale at which new vaccines have been developed is unprecedented in human history and represents the monumental progress that humanity has achieved in the face of a common threat,” he said.
“Now that the vaccines have arrived, they will be tested at the National Control Laboratory to confirm that their integrity has been maintained during transportation from India to South Africa.”
After this, they will be rolled out to health workers as a priority according to the national vaccine rollout plan. He added that another 500,000 doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive later this month.
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.
Not a simple choice
Ramaphosa spoke at a Nedlac event earlier today, where he said that the concept of choosing between saving lives and the economy was a fallacy.
He said that the economic impact of the virus would have at least rivalled those incurred by the national lockdown restrictions.
“We have found that this is a false choice,” he said. “The restrictions we have had to put in place to flatten the curve have had a severe impact on the economy and employment.”
“But these effects would have been far worse and probably would have lasted much longer if we had allowed the pandemic to decimate our population – not to mention the unbearable human cost.”
He added that the government has had to maintain a difficult balance in containing infections as much as possible while trying to limit the disruption to the economy.
“We have done so knowing that the effects of an uncontrolled pandemic would not only cause great human suffering now but could potentially cause our economy irreversible damage,” Ramaphosa said.
“That is why we need to overcome this pandemic – not only to save lives but also to protect livelihoods, now and into the future.”