- President Cyril Ramaphosa has officially lifted the alcohol and tobacco ban.
- The lifting of the ban comes as Covid-19 numbers have dramatically reduced in recent weeks.
- Ramaphosa, however, warned the country that it still needed to be vigilant.
The much-anticipated lifting of the alcohol and tobacco ban has been announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
On Saturday evening, Ramaphosa declared SA would move from Level 3 to Level 2 lockdown.
In his announcement, the president said Level 2 meant that "nearly all restrictions can be removed".
"Guided by the advice of our health experts and after consultation with provincial and local government, Cabinet has decided to place the entire country on alert Level 2…[this] means that there is a moderate Covid-19 spread of the virus with a relatively high health system readiness," he said.
Ramaphosa said the move to Level 2 means "the resumption of economic activity across most industries".
"Economic activity will be allowed with the necessary and appropriate stringent health protocols and safety precautions in place. We have concluded that the lower rate of infections we are experiencing should lead to the relaxation of the restrictions we have had thus far."
Life is not back to normal
He stressed, though, that this did not mean life was back to normal.
"However, now is the time for even greater vigilance and even greater care. As we continue to ease restrictions, the risk of infection does not diminish.
"In fact, the risk of infection becomes greater as more people return to work, as they move about more and as there are more opportunities to interact."
The president added: "We therefore cannot become complacent or abandon the health precautions that we know we need to take. Even the slightest lapse in our alertness at this moment could lead to a resurgence in infections at a rate and on a scale far greater than what we have seen so far."
The reasons we are opening
Ramaphosa said that, over the last three weeks, the number of new confirmed cases dropped from a peak of over 12 000 a day to an average over the past week of around 5 000 a day.
He said the recovery rate from coronavirus rose from 48% at the time of his last address to 80% on Saturday.
He added that the cumulative number of cases in SA remains "extremely high" at 583 653. However, the number of active cases is declining every day, and now stands at around 105 000.
"The virus appears to have peaked in several provinces, including the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and possibly in KwaZulu-Natal.
"Fewer people are presenting with symptoms at our health facilities. We are also finding that fewer people are requiring admission in our hospitals and the demand for coronavirus tests has dropped," he said.
Ramaphosa added that the number of patients hospitalised decreased from 10 000 at the beginning of the month to around 4 000.
"This is significantly reducing the pressure on our health facilities. As of today, 11 667 people are confirmed to have died from Covid-19 in SA."
What will Level 2 mean?
Ramaphosa broke down the restrictions, saying the following would happen:
- All restrictions on inter-provincial travel will be lifted.
- Accommodation, hospitality venues and tours will be permitted, according to approved protocols to ensure social distancing.
- Restaurants, bars and taverns will be permitted to operate, according to approved protocols as to times of operation and numbers of people.
- Restrictions on the sale of tobacco will be lifted.
- 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 22:00.
- Liquor outlets will be allowed to sell alcohol for off-site consumption from Monday to Thursday, during the hours of 09:00 to 17:00 only.
- Restrictions on family and social visits will also be lifted.
What restrictions remain?
Ramaphosa said the current restriction on international travel will remain in place.
Other remaining restrictions include:
- No gatherings of more than 50 people; this includes funerals and religious events.
- Spectators will not be permitted at sporting events.
- The curfew will remain between 22:00 and 04:00.
- Work from home is encouraged, especially for people over 60 or those with underlying conditions.
- The national state of disaster will remain until 15 September.