The return of international travel, an increase in the number of people allowed at gatherings, gyms and theatres are some of the fresh measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa as he confirmed that the country will be moving to alert level 1 of the national lockdown as of midnight on Sunday.
Ramaphosa said on Wednesday night that the country had succeeded in overcoming the worst phase of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic while protecting the capacity of the health system.
The president said the country is recording less than 2 000 cases daily compared to the 12 000 average which was a norm at the height of the storm.
“I wish to applaud you, the people of South Africa, for this achievement and for the thousands of lives that have been saved through your collective actions,” he said.
But Ramaphosa added that testing for Covid-19 would be increased and the criteria for testing expanded.
A national antibody survey would also be conducted to assess the true extent of infections and determine how many people may have been previously infected.
Under alert level 1 the following rules will apply:
- Social, religious, political and other gatherings will be permitted, as long as the number of people does not exceed 50% of the normal capacity of a venue. Up to 250 people will be permitted for indoor gatherings and 500 people for outdoor gatherings.
- The maximum number of people who may attend a funeral has been increased from 50 to 100 due to the higher risk of viral transmission at funerals. Night vigils are still not permitted.
- Venues for exercise, recreation and entertainment – such as gyms and theatres – which were limited to no more than 50 people, will now be allowed to accommodate up to 50% of their capacity. This will be determined by available floor space, subject to social distancing and other health protocols.
- Existing restrictions on sporting events remain in place.
- Where required for the purposes of voter registration or special voting, the Independent Electoral Commission will be allowed to visit correctional centres, health facilities, old age homes and other similar institutions.
- The hours of curfew have been relaxed. The curfew will now apply between midnight and 4am.
- The sale of alcohol at retail outlets for home consumption is now permitted from Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.
- Alcohol will be permitted for on-site consumption in licensed establishments only and with strict adherence to the curfew.
- Travel into and out of South Africa for business, leisure and other travel with be allowed with effect from October 1 2020. However, this will be subject to various containment and mitigation measures:
- Travel may be restricted to and from certain countries that have high infection rates. A list of countries will be published based on the latest scientific data.
- Travellers will only be able to use one of the land border posts that have remained operational during the lockdown or one of the three main airports namely King Shaka, OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airports.
- On arrival, travellers will need to present a negative Covid-19 test result not older than 72 hours from time of departure.
- Where a traveller has not done a Covid-19 test prior to departure, they will be required to remain in mandatory quarantine at their own cost.
- All travellers will be screened on arrival and those presenting with symptoms will be required to remain in quarantine until a repeat Covid-19 test is conducted.
- All travellers will be asked to install the Covid Alert South Africa mobile app.
The country is now working on improving the public health response by further reducing the transmission of the virus and preparing for a possible resurgence.
Although we have managed to control the virus through strict lockdown measures, the threat of a ‘second wave’ of infections remains. Vital precautionary measures must be maintained to prevent a new spike in COVID-19 cases. pic.twitter.com/Onk2bHZzqe— Presidency | South Africa ???? (@PresidencyZA) September 16, 2020
Ramaphosa said the country’s challenge now is to ensure that we do not experience a new surge in infections.
“Several countries around the world have been hit by a second wave or a resurgence of infections,” he said.