EXPLAINER | Easing lockdown: 10 things you need to know from Ramaphosa's speech

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  • President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that sit-in restaurants and hair salons will be allowed to reopen, among others, during lockdown Level 3.
  • In the second half of his speech, Ramaphosa also condemned the rise in gender-based violence and questioned South Africa's relationship with alcohol.
  • Here are the things you need to know about his address. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday evening announced that restaurants and hair salons, among others, will be allowed to reopen under Level 3 of the Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa.

LIVE | All the latest coronavirus and lockdown updates

In a 30-minute televised speech, the president also condemned the rise in gender-based violence, and said 21 women have died over the past few weeks.

He said the country should question its relationship with liquor, the sale of which was briefly banned, as it contributes to violence against women and accidents on roads.

EXPLAINER | Here are all the businesses Ramaphosa announced will be allowed to reopen

Ramaphosa said the country had 1 674 confirmed deaths from Covid-19. He said it is now individuals' own responsibility to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Here are 10 things you need to know about his address:

Life-saving Covid-19 drug manufactured in South Africa

Ramaphosa said in the midst of a "life-destroying pandemic", the country is greatly encouraged by the news of a breakthrough in the treatment of Covid-19 using dexamethasone.

A study by the University of Oxford in Britain found the drug – which is also manufactured in South Africa by one of the country's pharmaceutical companies, and of which there is an ample supply – reduced deaths among patients on ventilation by a third.

Ramaphosa said the Department of Health and the Ministerial Advisory Committee had recommended that dexamethasone be considered for use on patients on ventilators and oxygen supply.

More than half of SA's Covid-19 cases recovered, but number of infections doubles every 12 days

South Africa has seen 80 412 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the outbreak, Ramaphosa said.

He said of these, 44 331 people – or around 55% – had recovered. South Africa therefore currently had 34 407 active cases.

Ramaphosa said one of the ways of measuring the rate of transmission is called the "doubling time". This is the number of days it takes for the total number of cases to double.

He said in the three weeks prior to the implementation of the nationwide lockdown, the number of infections had doubled every two days.

During Level 5 of the lockdown, this doubling time increased to 15 days. And the doubling time has been at around 12 days during levels 4 and 3.

Covid-19 infections are rising rapidly in South Africa

Ramaphosa said nearly a third of all confirmed cases had been recorded in the last week alone, and more than half of all confirmed cases had been recorded over the last two weeks.

He said the Western Cape has so far been hardest hit by the disease, accounting for about 60% of infections in the country.

"There are indications that transmission in the Eastern Cape is now starting to rise and may just be a few weeks behind the Western Cape."

He said as the country gradually opens up, as people resume more activities, the risk of infection would inevitably increase.

"For many of us, what was once a distant disease is now coming much closer.  

Wearing masks and handwashing are the most effective way to combat the virus

Ramaphosa said studies show that wearing a cloth mask or similar piece of clothing that covers both nose and mouth at all times while in public places is effective in slowing down the spread of the virus.

He also reminded South Africans not to touch their faces with unwashed hands, and to clean and sanitise surfaces regularly.

"We should also keep in mind that social distancing is still one of the most effective ways of reducing the spread of the virus," he said.

Ramaphosa said these basic practices are becoming even more important now as the country eases the lockdown and enters a new phase in the coronavirus response.

"It is about each of us taking personal responsibility, wherever we are and whoever we are, for curbing the spread of the disease."

Fumigation tunnels may be harmful

Ramaphosa said medical experts had advised the government that fumigation tunnels and body spraying, which has been set up at taxi ranks and major buildings, may be harmful and should not be used.

South Africa takes a targeted approach with Covid-19 testing

Ramaphosa said South Africa, like many other countries, has been affected by the global shortage of coronavirus test kits and other materials. He said the country has therefore become more targeted in its testing, prioritising patients in hospitals, healthcare workers, vulnerable people like the elderly and hotspot areas.

"Although the situation is improving, we continue to experience delays in testing."

READ | Coronavirus: Experts slam coronavirus 'disinfection' tunnels

Restaurants for sit-down meals, hairdressers and casinos allowed to reopen

Ramaphosa said since the national lockdown, businesses and individuals have not had any income for more than 80 days.

He said even with the measures the country had put in place to support companies, employees and poor households as part of the R500 billion relief package, there was a limit to how long these businesses can be closed.

Therefore, the government has decided to reopen under lockdown Level 3:

  • Restaurants for "sit-down" meals
  • Accredited and licensed accommodation, with the exception of home-sharing accommodation like Airbnb
  • Conferences and meetings for business purposes and in line with restrictions on public gatherings
  • Cinemas and theatres, to be aligned to limitations on the gathering of people
  • Casinos
  • Personal care services, including hairdressers and beauty services
  • Non-contact sport such as golf, tennis, cricket and others. Contact sport will be allowed only for training and modified activities with restricted use of facilities

Ramaphosa said in each instance, specific and stringent safety requirements have been agreed on and will need to be put in place before a business can reopen, and protocols will need to be strictly adhered to for businesses to remain open.

"Announcements will be made in due course to detail these measures and indicate the date from which these activities will be permitted."

Covid-19 has unleashed a pandemic of violence against women and children

During the second half of his speech, Ramaphosa said at a time when the pandemic has left the country feeling vulnerable and uncertain, violence is being unleashed on women and children with "a brutality that defies comprehension".

"As a man, as a husband and as a father, I am appalled at what is no less than a war being waged against the women and children of our country," he said.

He said over the past few weeks no less than 21 women and children had been murdered, and the number of reported cases had spiked since Lockdown Level 3 was enforced.

"Their killers thought they could silence them. But we will not forget them and we will speak for them where they cannot."

Ramaphosa named those who were recently killed in gender-based violence, including Tshegofatso Pule, and said their voices will not be silenced.

"They are not just statistics. They have names and they had families and friends. This evening, our thoughts and prayers are with them."

Ramaphosa commended the South African Police Service for arresting almost all of the alleged perpetrators.

South Africa now has a national strategic plan to tackle gender based violence 

Ramaphosa said at a joint sitting of Parliament in September 2019, he announced an Emergency Response Plan to combat gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide and that R1.6 billion in government funding would be reprioritised to support its implementation until the end of the financial year.

He said the country now had a National Strategic Plan to guide the national effort against GBV.

Ramaphosa said during the lockdown period, the national government have ensured that survivors of GBV have access to support and services, including the GBV hotline, shelters and centres providing support to victims of sexual violence.

Since December 2019, 10 government-owned buildings had been handed over to the Department of Social Development to be used as shelters, he said.

He said 13 regional courts had been upgraded into sexual offences courts, 7 000 evidence collection kits had been distributed to every police station in the country and there were more than 1 000 survivor-friendly rooms at police stations.

Ramaphosa said more than 3 000 government employees who work with children and mentally disabled persons had been checked against the National Register for Sex Offenders.

South Africa should question its relationship with alcohol 

Ramaphosa said the country should ask itself about the effect alcohol abuse has not only on the levels of violence, but also on road accidents and reckless behaviour.

He said several international and domestic studies show clear linkages between alcohol abuse and gender-based violence.

"Of course, it is not alcohol that rapes or kills a woman or a child. Rather, it is the actions of violent men. But if alcohol intoxication is contributing to these crimes, then it must be addressed with urgency."

He said the country should draw on the lessons from the lockdown and decide how to protect society from the abuse of alcohol.

"Certainly, we need to provide greater support to people with drinking problems, including through rehabilitation and treatment."

He said the country will have to encourage responsible drinking, and be tough on liquor outlets violating the terms of their licence, but should also look at more drastic measures to curb the abuse of alcohol.

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