Could the worst be over ? South Africans battle mixed emotions as the country gears up to the reopening of its borders while adapting to what is said to be the "new normal"
On Wednesday night ( 16 September 2020) President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa is ready to move to Lockdown Level 1, effectively from this coming Sunday (20 September 2020 ).
Two months ago, at the height of the storm, South Africa was recording around 12,000 new cases a day. Now, the country is now on average recording less than 2,000 cases a day. We now have a recovery rate of 89%. Addressing the nation Ramaphosa said 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. The demand for hospital beds, ventilators, oxygen and other essential medical requirements has also reduced steadily. The country has succeeded in overcoming the worst phase of this epidemic while protecting the capacity of our health system.
I wish to applaud you, the people of South Africa, for this achievement and for the thousands of lives that have been saved through your collective actions. This achievement has also been recognised by the World Health Organisation, which has been working closely with us to strengthen our response
A month ago, the significant decrease in new infections enabled the country to move to corona virus alert level 2. Now, with the further progress we have made as infections have come down further, we are now ready for a new phase in our response to the pandemic.
Ramaphosa also mentioned that the time has come " to return our country, its people and our economy to a situation that is more normal, that more resembles the lives that we were living six months ago. It is time to move to what will become our new normal for as long as the coronavirus is with us."
While much economic activity resumed from June, Level 1 will remove many of the remaining restrictions on economic and social activity as it is reasonably safe to do.
These are some of the changes you can expect :
- Social, religious, political and other gatherings will be permitted, as long as the number of people does not exceed 50% of the normal capacity of a venue, up to a maximum of 250 people for indoor gatherings and 500 people for outdoor gatherings.
- Health protocols, such as washing or sanitising of hands, social distancing and wearing masks, will need to be strictly observed.
- The maximum number of people who may attend a funeral is increased from 50 to 100 due to the higher risk of viral transmission at funerals.
- Night vigils are still not permitted.
- Venues for exercise, recreation and entertainment such as gyms and theatres
- which were limited to no more than 50 people, will now be allowed to accommodate up to 50% of their venue’s capacity as determined by available floor space, subject to social distancing and other health protocols.
- Existing restrictions on sporting events remain in place
Travel may be restricted to and from certain countries that have high infection rates. A list of countries will be published based on the latest scientific data. -
Travellers will only be able to use one of the land border posts that have remained operational during the lockdown or one of the three main airports: King Shaka, OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airport.
- 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.
- 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.
Also as part of the gradual return to regular economic and social activity: -
- The hours of curfew have been changed.
- The curfew will now apply between midnight and 4am.
- The sale of alcohol at retail outlets for home consumption is now permitted from Monday to Friday, from 09h00 to 17h00.
- Alcohol will be permitted for on-site consumption in licensed establishments only and with strict adherence to the curfew.
In the next few days, the updated regulations will be published and Ministers will provide detailed briefings. The Department of Public Service and Administration will shortly issue circulars to all public servants on the measures that will enable the return of all areas of government to full operation safely and without undue delay.