President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday night announced that the country will move from level 3 to level 2 of the lockdown restrictions from midnight on Monday.
He said the decision came after extensive consultations with national and provincial governments as well as other stakeholders, Cabinet and the national coronavirus command council.
As a result, the ban on alcohol and tobacco product sells have been lifted. The tobacco products were banned in March as part of South Africa’s risk-adjusted strategy to manage the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, while alcohol was banned again in July.
Ramaphosa said “the suspension of the sale of alcohol will be lifted subject to certain restrictions”.
“Alcohol will be permitted for on-site consumption in licensed establishments only up until 10pm. Liquor outlets will be allowed to sell alcohol for off-site consumption from Monday to Thursday from 9am to 5pm only,” he said.
Restrictions on interprovincial travel will be lifted while accommodation, hospitality venues and tours will also be permitted according to approved protocols to ensure social distancing.
Restaurants, bars and taverns will be permitted to operate according to approved protocols and adherence to the restrictions in the numbers of people allowed to gather in one place.
Ramaphosa also announced that family visits, banned since March, will now be allowed. “Restrictions on family and social visits will also be lifted, although everyone is urged to exercise extreme caution and undertake such visits only if necessary,” the president said.
But cautioned citizens to remain vigilant and practice social distancing at all times.
“Masks should continue to be worn and special care should be taken to protect the elderly and people with underlying conditions,” said Ramaphosa.
The easing in restrictions followed a special Cabinet meeting on Saturday afternoon. The executive met after receiving advice from health experts whose advice was that the country has now managed to flatten the Covid-19 virus and that healthcare infrastructure would not be undermined.
During his address, Ramaphosa admitted that it had been an immensely difficult five months but over the last three weeks, there had been a glimmer of hope with the number of new confirmed cases dropping from a peak of more than 12 000 a day to around 5 000 a day.
The recovery rate had drastically increased from 48% at the time of my last address to the current 80%. As a result, Cabinet had decided to reopen other sectors of the economy.
Gatherings in churches and at funerals will remain at 50 people at a time and spectators are still banned at sports events. The curfew has also not been lifted, he said.