South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday announced a sweeping removal of lockdown restrictions in the country. He said all indications were that South Africa’s infection rate had fallen.
In a televised address, Ramaphosa said the government would lift restrictions on inter-provincial travel, end the ban on alcohol and tobacco and allow restaurants and taverns to return to normal business. However, he stressed that they will be subject to strict hygiene regulations.
Hospitality and drinks industries have suffered a heavy blow since the government imposed a ban on alcohol in the country.
Some have been pushed to the brink of bankruptcy and have had to shed thousands of jobs. For those industries, the lifting of restrictions will be a huge relief.
In the televised statement, President Ramaphosa said: “All indications are that South Africa has reached the peak and moved beyond the inflection point of the curve,”.
Ramaphosa added that the cabinet had decided to move to lower, “level two” restrictions beginning on Monday. This would mean that the Government can now remove nearly all of the restrictions imposed across many industries, on the resumption of economic activity.
South Africa is believed to have imposed one of the world’s toughest lockdowns when the country recorded only a few hundred cases.
Despite the stringent measure, the Country saw a surge in coronavirus infections that placed it among the top five countries with the highest number of cases in the world — currently around 587,300, of whom around 11,800 have died.
“A national “state of disaster,” implemented five months ago, will however be extended by one month, until Sept. 15…….. South Africa remains by far the worst affected country on the continent”, the president said.
South Africa’s economy, which was already struggling economically pre-pandemic, has been hit by the COVID-19 crisis, as millions of citizens have been pushed deeper into extreme poverty.
Ramaphosa stated that the rates of new COVID-19 infections had fallen from a peak of 12,000 a day, to an average of 5,000 a day.
He believes this, as well as a rise in recoveries, is significantly reducing the pressure on the Country’s health facilities. He however cautioned the citizens that cases could surge if people became complacent.
“The further easing of restrictions presents us with the greatest opportunity since the start of the pandemic to breathe life into our struggling economy,” Ramaphosa said.
“Restrictions on international travel remained in place”, he said.