President says that though the pandemic continues to take a heavy toll on the country, the infection rate is tapering off and pressure on health services has eased.
PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday evening announced the lifting of South Africa’s prohibition on alcohol and tobacco sales and inter-provincial travel as he confirmed that the country’s almost five-month-old Covid-19 lockdown would be eased to alert Level 2 from Monday.
Addressing the nation on live television, radio, and online streaming, Ramaphosa said that though the pandemic continued to take a heavy toll on the country, the infection rate was tapering off and pressure on the health services had eased.
“We have concluded that the lower rate of infections should lead to the relaxation of the restrictions we have had thus far,” he said.
Cabinet agreed to allow tobacco sales to resume for the first time in more than 140 days, while alcohol sales would be allowed between 9am and 5pm from Monday through to Thursday. Restaurants, bars and taverns would be allowed to operate, but with certain restrictions.
Though the ban on inter-provincial travel would fall away, that on international travel would remain in place.
Ramaphosa said the easing of restrictions would “breathe life into our struggling economy”, but he conceded that it would take a long time for business to recover from the ravages of the lockdown.
The president said the easing, which was opposed by some Cabinet members, was made possible by the fact that the recovery rate for those infected with the coronavirus had improved from 48 percent to an incredible 80 percent, and while the total number of infections stood at 583 653, the number of active cases “is declining every day and now stands at 105 000”.
He said the virus had peaked in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Gauteng, and the demand for both coronavirus tests and hospital beds had decreased.
Earlier on Saturday, the government gazetted a proclamation extending the state of disaster by another month. Ramaphosa, during the course of the day, met with the country’s nine provincial premiers.
Western Cape premier Alan Winde earlier this week published an open letter to the president in which he pleaded for restrictions to be lifted to help the battered economy survive.
– African News Agency (ANA)