By Reon Janse van Rensburg
On Wednesday, the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, announced that the country will move to level 1 of the national lockdown at midnight on Sunday, 20 September 2020. President Ramaphosa’s announcement was made during a live broadcast.
The decision eased the mood of South Africans and a degree of excitement was created after the cabinet − in consultation with provincial and local government representatives and on the advice of scientists and discussions with various stakeholders − decided that South Africa was ready to move to level 1 of the national lockdown.
According to President Ramaphosa, the country has “weathered the storm” in its fight against the coronavirus. He mentioned that data showed a clear downward trend in the numbers of the country’s Covid-19 cases.
However, he warned that the country was still caught in a deadly pandemic and that the most important task was to ensure that South Africa was not hit by a second wave of Covid-19 infections as was the case with other countries.
According to Ramaphosa, the government will test more people and also expand testing to include more categories of people. He also mentioned that the government intends to sharpen their ability to track down people who have been in contact with confirmed Covid-19 cases.
Ramaphosa appeals to all South Africans owning a smartphone to download the COVID Alert SA application. The application will notify people if they have been in contact with any confirmed Covid-19 cases in the past 14 days.
“The application is anonymous and does not collect any personal information. Your location and movements are not stored on the application and it is therefore safe to use. ” – President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said that South Africa was participating in an initiative of the World Health Organisation to ensure access to and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine at a lower cost. Local experts are also working on the development of a vaccine.
However, the national state of disaster is still valid after the cabinet extended it to 15 October last week.
- From 1 October, the government will gradually ease restrictions on international business and leisure travel, but it is subject to restrictions. A list of countries allowed entry will be published later and is based on the latest scientific data.
- Travelers will have to provide a coronavirus certificate indicating that they have been tested negative, or they will be quarantined at their own expense. Proof of having been tested may not be older than 72 hours.
- All travelers will need to install the COVID Alert SA application on their smartphones.
- South Africa’s embassies will reopen for visa applications and all long-term visa applications will be valid again.
- Gatherings will be allowed as long as the number of people does not exceed 50% of the capacity of a venue (up to a maximum of 250 people for indoor events and 500 people for outdoor events).
- The maximum capacity at funerals has been increased to 100 people.
- Night vigils are still prohibited.
- Gyms and leisure facilities may be up to 50% of their total capacity.
- Existing restrictions on sporting events remain applicable.
- The curfew applies between 00h00 and 04h00.
- Alcohol for private consumption can be sold from Monday to Friday between 09:00 and 17:00.
- Alcohol consumption will be allowed on the premises subject to the curfew rule.
- More government facilities will return to normal.
- All health protocols remain applicable, such as maintaining social distance, wearing masks and also the use of hand sanitizers.
Ramaphosa said this would be the “new normal” and that revised restrictions would be published in the Government Gazette over the next few days to provide more clarity.