President Cyril Ramaphosa on progress in the national effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. PHOTO: GCIS

CHARLES MOLELE

PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa would now move to Level 1 lockdown from 1 March due to a significant drop in COVID-19 infections.

Ramaphosa said during a live address that the infection rate in South Africa, one of the hardest-hit countries on the continent, has dramatically dropped to such an extent that it would be imprudent to keep the country on the same lockdown level as it was at the peak of the Second Wave.  

“New infections, admissions to hospital and deaths have fallen significantly and continue to decline steadily. In the week that has just passed, the country recorded just under 10,000 new infections. A month ago, in the last week of January, the country recorded over 40,000 new cases. And a month before that, in the last week of December, the country recorded close to 90,000 new cases. ,” said Ramaphosa.

“As we ease restrictions, we cannot let our guard down. The few remaining restrictions under Alert Level 1 are meant to maintain low levels of infections and, in particular, to prevent super-spreading events.”

The new alert level will come into effect later on Sunday night once the regulations have been gazetted.
 
This now means that the hours of the curfew would now be from 12 midnight to 4.am.
 
Gatherings are now permitted, subject to limitations on size, adherence to social distancing and other health protocols.

These include religious, social, political and cultural gatherings.

The maximum number of people allowed at any gathering is 100 people indoors or 250 people outdoors, said Ramaphosa.
 
“Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50 per cent of the capacity of the venue may be used,” said Ramaphosa.
 
“Night vigils or other gatherings before or after funerals are still not permitted. Nightclubs will remain closed.”

The sale of alcohol would be permitted, according to normal licence provisions but no alcohol may be sold during the hours of the curfew.

The president said the wearing of masks in public places is still mandatory, and failure to wear a mask when required remains a criminal offence.
 
He said the 33 land border posts that have been closed throughout this period will remain closed, while the other 20 will remain open.
 
“Only five airports will be open for international travel with standard infection control measures,” he said.

 “These are OR Tambo, Cape Town, King Shaka, Kruger Mpumalanga and Lanseria airports.”

Ramaphosa said more than 67,000 health workers were vaccinated in 10 days.

As a new batch of the 80,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines arrived in the country this weekend, the number of vaccination sites will increase from 17 to 49 sites next week.  

Of these, 32 will be in public hospitals, and 17 in private hospitals.

He expects that phase two of the vaccination drive – which will include the elderly, essential workers, those with comorbidities and those who work and live in institutional settings – will start in late April.

He added that two million people now use the Covid-19 alert app.

(SOURCE: INSIDE POLITICS)

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