President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa will move to lockdown level 1 from midnight on Sunday 20 September 2020.
This will come with the easing of a number of existing lockdown regulations, including those related to travel and the national curfew.
Speaking in an address to the nation on Wednesday 16 September, Ramaphosa said that South Africa was making progress in its fight against COVID-19.
“With the further progress we have made as infections have come down we are now ready for a new phase in our response to the pandemic,” Ramaphosa said.
“Now is the time to return our country, its people, our economy, to a situation that more resembles the lives we were living six months ago.”
Level 1 changes
Ramaphosa announced that the following changes would be made as part of the move to level 1 lockdown:
- Social, religious, political, and other gatherings will now be permitted, so long as the number of people does not exceed 50% of the normal capacity of the venue. This must only be to a maximum of 250 people for indoor venues and 500 people for outdoor locations.
- Current protocols such as washing, social distancing, and mask-wearing will need to be strictly observed.
- The maximum number of people allowed at a funeral has increased from 50 to 100.
- The hours of curfew have been changed. The curfew will now apply between midnight and 04:00.
- The sale of alcohol at retail outlets for home consumption is now permitted from Monday to Friday from 09:00 to 17:00. Alcohol will be permitted for on-site consumption with strict adherence to the curfew.
- Venues for exercise, recreational, and entertainment activities such as gyms and theatres will now be allowed to accommodate up to 50% as determined by the available floor space and subject to social distancing.
- Existing restrictions on sporting events remain in place.
- Where required for the purposes of voted registration, the IEC will be allowed to visit correctional centres, old age homes, and other institutions, subject to all relevant health protocols.
- Restrictions on international travel will gradually be eased. Travel will be allowed into and out of South Africa for business, leisure, and other travel with effect from 1 October 2020.
- International travel may be restricted to and from certain countries that have high infection rates, with only King Shaka International, OR Tambo International, and Cape Town airports allowed to facilitate international travel.
- On arrival in South Africa, travellers will need to present negative COVID-19 test results not older than 72 hours from the time of departure. Where they do not present this, travellers will be required to stay in mandatory quarantine at their own cost.
- All international travellers will be asked to install the COVID-19 Alert South African app.
“Our economy and our society have suffered great devastation. We have endured a fierce and destructive storm,” Ramaphosa said.
“Now we are, on average, recording less than 2,000 cases per day. We now have a recovery rate of 89%, which could go to 98% in time.”
“We have succeeded in overcoming the worst phase of this pandemic while protecting the capacity of our health system,” he said.
The President said South Africa’s greatest challenge now is to ensure it does not experience a resurgence in infections.
He said that alongside increased testing, the government is improving contact tracing through the deployment of the COVID-19 Alert mobile phone app.
COVID-19 vaccine committee
The President’s announcement follows a statement by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize earlier this week, which stated that South Africa had created a Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) that would focus on the development of a vaccine for COVID-19.
“In addition to the multi-sectoral MAC focusing on community mobilisation, another MAC has been created to focus on Coronavirus vaccine development,” Mkhize said.
The MAC will advise the government on the development and rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine, and it will monitor and report on candidate studies.
“This will ensure that the Department of Health and government are kept abreast on all critical developments internationally relating to the vaccine,” Mkhize said.
Mkhize added that this committee would also study the feasibility for South Africa to manufacture vaccines in future.
Professor Barry Schoub, who is an expert in vaccinology and virology, will chair the committee.
Other members include Biovac CEO Dr Morena Makhoana, Department of Science and Technology’s Glaudina Loots, South African Health Products Authority CEO Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela, and Vaccines for Africa’s Professor Greg Hussey.