South Africa eases lockdown, borders open 1 October

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

Johannesburg – President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the easing of South Africa’s risk-adjusted strategy to lockdown level 1 on Wednesday night.

“We have withstood the coronavirus storm. Now is the time to move the country and our people to what will become the new normal,” he said.

The president 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.

In a boon for the restaurant and entertainment industries, the curfew will also be changed to between midnight and 4 am daily.

Alcohol sales will be permitted from Monday to Friday between 9 am and 5 pm.

The president has also announced the gradual reopening of the country’s borders.

“We will be allowing travel into and out of South Africa for business, leisure and other travel with effect from 1 October,” Ramaphosa said.

However, travellers will have to provide a certificate of proof that they have tested negative for Covid-19.

“South African missions abroad will open for visa applications and all long-term visas will be reinstated,” he said.

Ramaphosa was addressing the nation after he met members of the National Coronavirus Command Council on Monday and after a special sitting of the President’s Co-ordinating Council, which he co-chairs with Deputy President David Mabuza.

The PCC is made up of ministers, premiers and leadership of South African Local Government Association (Salga) and National House of Traditional Leaders.

For the past six months, South Africa has been declared a disaster state and has been in lockdown since late March. The disaster state was declared in a bid to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Since April, more than 15 640 people have died in Covid-19 related deaths in South Africa, while over 650 000 people have contracted the virus.

The hardest hit provinces have been Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

Under lockdown level 1, all sectors will be allowed to trade, Ramaphosa announced, and international air travel will be permitted for the first time since borders were sealed during lockdown level 5.

In a draft document circulated by government officials in April, the government had anticipated that under level 1, the spread of the virus would be low and that there would be higher high system readiness from the health sector.

There was good news for the musicians as well, as Ramaphosa announced indoor gatherings could now accommodate up to 200 people at a time, while outdoor events would be capped at 500.

On Wednesday, musicians and other entertainment industry role players staged a protest at the Union Buildings in Pretoria demanding they be allowed to host events. In Durban recently, more than 30 people in the sector were arrested when they blocked the N3 highway in a bid to highlight their plight.

Because venues were not legally allowed to host more than 50 people, they were starving, they said.

Ramaphosa also said religious gatherings such as mosques, churches and temples, could now accommodate up to 50% capacity. This is a significant increase compared to the 50 person limit that was introduced since level 4.

Gyms and theatres would also be allowed up to 50% of their venue capacity.