SOUTH Africa moves to level 1 lockdown as from midnight on Sunday, almost six months after it first came into effect in March.
From Sunday September 20, South Africa will officially enter into what scientists and commentators around the world have billed as the “new normality.”
While the country enters into level 1 lockdown, government warned that social-distancing, hygiene protocols and obligatory mask use will remain in force until a vaccine for COVID-19 is found.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the easing of the country’s risk-adjusted strategy to lockdown level 1 on Wednesday night during a live address to the nation.
“Health protocols, such as washing or sanitising of hands, social distancing and mask-wearing, will need to be strictly observed,” said Ramaphosa.
The president said Cabinet took a decision that the country should move to alert level 1 based on scientific and rigorous research, including the country’s recovery rate of 89% with less than 2 000 cases of COVID-19 infections per day.
“Even as restrictions have eased over the last month with our move to alert level 2, there has been a gradual, but steady, decline in new infections, hospitalisations and deaths,” said Ramaphosa.
This, after the ministry of health said on Wednesday that a total of 20 962 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours, with 1923 new cases, which takes the overall number of cases to 653 444.
The country’s recoveries now stands at 583 126 with a total of 52 754 active cases.
At least 142 more COVID-19 related deaths were reported, bringing the total number of deaths to 15 641.
The move to Level 1 lockdown will also see government allowing travel into and out of South Africa for business, leisure and other travel with effect from 1 October 2020.
South Africa normally attracts 19.6 million tourists a year.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the 2018 contribution of the tourism sector in South Africa directly accounted for 2.8% of real gross domestic product (GDP), which amounts to R139 billion and this was projected to grow to R145.3 billion for 2019.
Opening up the holiday market again by Ramaphosa is seen as crucial to the South African economy.
Arrivals will have their temperature taken at the airport, state if they have had the virus and provide contact details.
Travellers will also be asked to install the COVID Alert South Africa mobile app on arrival, Ramaphosa said.
“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,” said Ramaphosa.
“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. Countries that have used this type of app have been able to manage the coronavirus pandemic quite effectively.”
On the economic front, Ramaphosa said following several weeks of engagement, the social partners at NEDLAC have made tremendous progress on an ambitious social compact for economic recovery.
This, he said, represented a historic milestone for South Africa, demonstrating what can be achieved when the country unite to confront an urgent crisis.
He added that Cabinet will build on this emerging common ground to finalise the country’s economic reconstruction and recovery plan in the coming weeks.
“The reconstruction and recovery plan that will be finalised will build on the R500 billion economic and social relief package we announced in April, which has provided vital support for households, companies and workers at a time of dire need. Through the special COVID-19 grants and the top-up of existing grants, well over R30 billion in additional support has already been provided directly to more than 16 million people from poor households,” said Ramaphosa.
“More than 800,000 companies have benefited through the UIF wage support scheme and through the grants and loans provided by various government departments and public entities. More than 4 million workers have received R42 billion in wage support, helping to protect these jobs even while companies were not able to operate. This support has touched the lives of millions of South Africans, and has made a real difference to those in greatest need.”
Meanwhile, Ramaphosa also announced that a number of restrictions on social gatherings will be eased, including allowing up to 100 people to attend funerals.
Under the previous lockdown regulations, attendance was capped at 50 people.
Alcohol sales will be permitted from Monday September 21 to Friday between 9 am and 5 pm.
The curfew will also be changed to between midnight and 4 am daily.
(COMPILED BY INSIDE POLITICS STAFF)