President Cyril Rampahosa said that government would begin consultations with relevant stakeholders on a proposal that most of the country be placed at level 3 at the end of May but that those parts of the country with the highest rates of COVID-19 infections remain at level 4.
The president was addressing the nation on Tuesday night on the measures being taken to fight the coronavirus.
Ramaphosa said that government was preparing for a further easing of the lockdown and a gradual opening of the economy but warned that lifting the lockdown too abruptly and too quickly risked the country seeing a “rapid and insurmountable surge in infections”.
The president said that government would thus proceed cautiously and would be guided by the best available evidence from local and international experts.
On the easing of the lockdown to level 3, President Ramaphosa noted that coronavirus infections were mostly concentrated in a few metropolitan municipalities and districts across the country and indicated that with the easing to level 3, some areas may be designated at a certain level, with other at another level.
“It is important that we maintain stringent restrictions in these areas and restrict travel out of these areas to parts of the country with lower rates of infection. 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.
“We will make further announcements after the completion of the consultations.”
Ramaphosa also has confirmed that 219 people had died of COVID-19 in South Africa so far.
The latest figure means that 13 more people had died of the virus since the last fatalities were announced on Monday.
Ramaphosa said that despite the duration and severity, the lockdown was absolutely necessary. He said that without the lockdown, infections would have soared, hospitals overwhelmed and there would have been thousands of South African deaths. The president said that the purpose of the lockdown was to delay the spread of the virus and to prevent a huge surge in infections.
“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. So far, we have been successful in the manner we as South Africans have responded and dealt with this virus. By delaying the spread of the disease, we have been able to strengthen the capacity of our health system and to put in place wide-ranging public health programmes to better manage the inevitable increase in infections. By answering the call to stay at home and stay safe, you, the people of South Africa, have helped us to save many lives.”
South Africa’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the president said, was guided by advice from experts in South Africa and the globe. The country, he said, had benefitted from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the experiences that other nations had been through.