As the country prepares to move to level 3 lockdown next week, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday warned that things were about to get worse.
The president addressed the nation confirming that more sectors of the economy would reopen as the country eased restrictions.
But with more than 22,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, the president warned South Africans the worst was yet to come.
From 1 June, life in South Africa will start approaching something closer to normality. Citizens will be able to exercise when they want to, the curfew will be lifted, and many industries will be able to get back to work.
Citizens will even be able to buy alcohol again, albeit under strict conditions.
But Ramaphosa warned that the easing of lockdown restrictions did not mean the threat caused by virus had passed.
“In fact, the risk of a massive increase in infections is now greater than it has been since the start of the outbreak in our country,” Ramaphosa said.
He said the new phase of the lockdown was about behavioural change, so the responsibility was now with citizens.
“Now, we look once again to you, to your actions, and to your sense of responsibility. We look to you to uphold the sanctity of life and the dignity of all people. We look to you to protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us,” the president said.
“We look to you to demonstrate the solidarity and compassion that has characterised the response of the South African people to this crisis. In meeting this grave challenge, we will move ahead as one people, united in action, and determined that we will surely overcome. At this time, more than any other, we are reminded of the words of Madiba, when he said: ‘It is now in your hands’,” he added.
The president said government had used 10 weeks of strict lockdown to prepare the health system for the surge in infections, with 20,000 hospital beds now repurposed for COVID-19 cases.
He said 27 field hospitals were built and some were now ready to receive patients.