A stern warning that stringent restrictions will remain in metropolitan areas identified as hotspots of the deadly coronavirus.
PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday night announced that the national lockdown will be eased further at the end of the month but only in areas with low infection rates.
Ramaphosa issued a stern warning that stringent restrictions will remain in metropolitan areas identified as hotspots of the deadly coronavirus.
“We will immediately begin a process of consultation with relevant stakeholders on a proposal that by the end of May, most of the country be placed on alert level 3, but that those parts of the country with the highest rates of infection remain on level 4,” said Ramaphosa.
He said infections were mostly concentrated in a few of the country’s metropolitan municipalities and districts.
According to Ramaphosa, it is important that stringent restrictions in areas with high infection rates remain to limit travel out of these areas to parts of the country with lower rates of infection.
He said further announcements after the completion of the consultations in the coming days will be made.
The president also promised that his administration will announce certain changes to the current level 4 regulations to expand permitted business activities in the retail space and e-commerce and reduce restrictions on exercise.
Addressing the nation, Ramaphosa said in the differentiated approach the alert level will be determined by the rate of infection in each area and the capacity of its health facilities.
The Covid-19 pandemic has killed 219 people in South Africa while the confirmed infection rate is around 181 people per million of the population while countries like the US, UK, Spain, Italy and Singapore have between 2 400 and 4 600 coronavirus cases per million.
At the similar stage of the progression of Covid-19, the US and UK had recorded over 22 000 and 19 000 deaths, respectively.
Over nine million people have been screened for Covid-19 and nearly 370 000 tests have been conducted, according to Ramaphosa.
“We should never forget that the purpose of the lockdown was to delay the spread of the virus and prevent a huge surge of infections,” Ramaphosa said.
The president also defended his government’s decision to impose the national lockdown, which is now in its seventh week.
“Some have questioned whether our approach in dealing with the coronavirus has been at the expense of the livelihoods of our people. Our strategic approach has been based on saving lives and preserving livelihoods,” he said.
Ramaphosa also announced that the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s Covid-19 relief scheme has paid over R11 billion to two million employees working for more than 160 000 companies in distress.
“This will help to keep companies afloat and save millions of jobs,” he said.
Ramaphosa said as of Wednesday, the R200bn Covid-19 loan guarantee scheme started processing applications from small and medium-sized businesses with a turnover of R300 million or less.
Earlier this month, Ramaphosa’s administration paid out an additional R5bn to social grant recipients to assist poor households at a time when other sources of income have been disrupted.
The R350 Covid-19 social relief of distress grant for the unemployed who receive no other form of assistance from the government opened this week and by the close of business on Wednesday about three million South Africans had already applied.
Read the President’s full statement here: