South Africa will see a relaxation of at least two Alert Level 1 lockdown rules, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday – after officials had privately suggested stricter rules may be on the cards.
Ramaphosa expressed the government’s concern about rapid spread of the coronavirus in the Eastern Cape, and flagged the upcoming festive season as worrying too, with a strong call for South Africans to wear masks and take other common-sense measures long advised to help fight the pandemic.
But the announcement of a promising vaccine candidate had changed government’s perspective, he also said.
“As South Africans we have endured what we hope is the worst of the storm”, he said, after noting the spiralling Covid-19 numbers in other parts of the world, and warning against “coronavirus fatigue”.
Here’s what you need to know about President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the nation on Wednesday night.
The travel red list is history
South Africa will be allowing tourists from all countries across its borders under an upcoming amendment to Level 1 rules, Ramaphosa said, ending the controversial red-list system.
“By utilising rapid tests and strict monitoring, we intend to limit the spread of the infection through importation by those who will be travelling to our country,” said Ramaphosa.
You’ll be able to buy booze at bottle stores and elsewhere later
In another amendment to lockdown rules, trading hours will be normalised, Ramaphosa said, “for instance for the sale of alcohol for retail outlets”.
Due to the limit of 17:00 on booze sales Monday to Friday, supermarkets selling wine were forced to close those sections before closing their stores, and bottle stores had to close long before restaurants were made to stop selling booze.
Pfizer’s announcement on a vaccine candidate changed the South African government’s outlook
Though he did not mention Pfizer by name, Ramaphosa referred to news this week of a vaccine that may be more than 90% effective.
“This changes our perspective of the future of the coronavirus pandemic,” he said. “This development brings new hope in our fight against this virus.”
See also | Pfizer shared the first evidence that a Covid vaccine works — but you could wait months for a shot
SA would focus on securing equitable access to vaccines for itself, and the African continent, he said.
The national government is very worried about the Eastern Cape
An apparent resurgence in infections in the Eastern Cape should serve as a “wake up call” to the likes of Cape Town, parts of the Free State and Northern Cape, and the Garden Route, Ramaphosa said.
But rapid spread in the Eastern Cape is also worrying the government more broadly, and the province topped Ramaphosa’s list of “areas that we must pay attention to”.
“With many people moving between the Eastern Cape and other provinces, particularly the Western Cape, it is a matter of time before this surge spreads to other parts of the country.”
A “resurgence plan” will focus on contact tracing, community mobilisation, and health system readiness, he said.
The Christmas season is also worrying the government
The travel and gatherings that are traditional for South Africans over the festive season is worrying the government, Ramaphosa made clear.
But he did not recommend changing such traditions, instead saying South Africans should do “what we all know must be done”: wear masks, keep to social distancing, and limit contact.
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