President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday evening addressed the nation on the government’s risk-adjusted plan to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the country.
His address followed recent meetings of Cabinet, the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), and the President’s Coordinating Council.
These are all the changes you can expect come 1 June:
ALERT LEVEL 3
Ramaphosa announced that the entire country would move from level 4 to level 3 lockdown with effect from 1 June 2020.
“Moving to alert level 3 marks a significant shift in our approach to the pandemic. This will result in the opening up of the economy and the removal of a number of restrictions on the movement of people, while significantly expanding and intensifying our public health interventions,” he said.
The president announced that the sale of alcohol would be allowed on certain days and for limited hours, with the details expected to be announced soon.
“Announcements in this regard will be made once we have concluded discussions with the sector on the various conditions,” he said.
But the sale of tobacco is still prohibited under the alert level 3 for COVID-19.
“The sale of tobacco products will remain prohibited in alert level 3 due to the health risks associated with smoking,” Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa said all gatherings would remain prohibited, except for funerals with no more than 50 people or meetings in the workplace for work purposes.
“Any place open to the public where cultural, sporting, entertainment, recreational, exhibitional, organisational or similar activities may take place will remain closed,” he said.
The president said the government had “fruitful discussions” with leaders of the interfaith religious community on their proposals for the partial opening of spiritual worship and counselling services subject to certain norms and standards.
He said they had all agreed to have further discussions on this issue, saying they were confident a workable solution would be found.
INFECTIONS AND DEATHS
Ramaphosa announced that as of Sunday, South Africa had 22,583 confirmed coronavirus cases and 429 people had died.
“There are now just over 11,000 active coronavirus cases in the country,” he said. “Of these, 842 patients are in hospital and 128 of these are in intensive care.”
Tests conducted stood at over 580,000 and more than 12 million screenings were done nationwide.
“There are nearly 60,000 community health workers who have been going door-to-door across the country to identify possible cases of coronavirus,” Ramaphosa said.
EXPECTED INCREASE IN INFECTIONS
The president said as scientists had predicted, the infections in South Africa had now started to rise sharply.
“One-third of the cumulative confirmed cases were recorded in the last week alone. And we should expect that these numbers will rise even further and even faster,” he said.
Ramaphosa said in preparation for the expected increase in infections, around 20,000 hospital beds had been repurposed for COVID-19 cases, and 27 field hospitals were being built around the country.
“A number of these hospitals are ready to receive coronavirus patients,” he said.
Ramaphosa said under alert level 3, people would also be able to exercise at any time during the day, provided this is not done in groups.
Under level 4 lockdown, exercise was allowed from 6:00 to 8:00.
Ramaphosa said the curfew on the movement of people that was implemented under level 4 lockdown from 20:00 to 05:00 would be lifted when the country moves to level 3 on 1 June.
COVID-19 HOTSPOT AREAS
Ramaphosa said Tshwane, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Nelson Mandela Bay, Buffalo City, and Cape Town were identified as coronavirus hotspots in terms of metros in the country.
He said the government was particularly concerned about the situation in Cape Town and the Western Cape generally, which now had more than half the total infections in the country.
“A hotspot is defined as an area that has more than 5 infected people per every 100,000 people or where new infections are increasing at a fast pace,” he said.
The other areas that were hotspots included West Coast, Overberg and Cape Winelands district municipalities in the Western Cape, Chris Hani district in the Eastern Cape, and iLembe District in KwaZulu-Natal.
The president said the list of hotspot areas would be reviewed every two weeks depending on the progression of the virus.
“We are attending to this as a matter of urgency,” he said.
ECONOMIC SECTORS TO REOPEN
All manufacturing, mining, construction, financial services, professional and business services, information technology, communications, government services and media services, would commence full reopening from 1 June, Ramaphosa said.
However, he said this would be subject to protocols put in place at workplaces to ensure the health and safety of employees.
“In opening up the economy, we will rely on social compacts with all key role players to address the key risk factors at the workplace and in the interface between employees and the public,” Ramaphosa said.
“We will therefore be finalising a number of sector protocols and will require every company to develop a workplace plan before they re-open,” he added.
He said companies would need to screen workers on arrival each day, quarantine those who may be infected, and make arrangements for them to be tested. This also included contact tracing if employees tested positive.
Employees who could work from home and those with underlying health conditions were encouraged to work from home.
MORE ON SECTORS TO REOPEN
Wholesale and retail trade under level 3 lockdown would be fully opened, including stores, spaza shops and informal traders. E-commerce would continue to remain open.
“Other sectors that opened previously, such as agriculture and forestry, utilities, medical services, food production and manufacture of hygiene products, will remain fully opened,” Ramaphosa said.
HIGH-RISK ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES
The president announced that certain high-risk economic activities would remain prohibited. These included restaurants, bars and taverns. But, except for delivery or collection of food.
Accommodation and domestic air travel is still prohibited, except for business travel, which would be phased in on dates to be announced.
Conferences, events, entertainment and sporting activities, personal care services, including hairdressing, and beauty services are still banned.
Regarding the reopening of schools from 1 June for grades 7 and 12 pupils, Ramaphosa said government’s priority was on the health and well-being of learners, students, educators and workers in these institutions.
The president said it was understandable that there was some concern about the reopening of schools, saying no parent would be forced to send their child to school if they were worried about safety.
“We are also concerned about the growth and development of our children and that an entire generation of learners should not be permanently disadvantaged by this pandemic,” he said.
“We are therefore taking a cautious and phased approach to the re-opening of schools, guided by medical advice and in consultation with all stakeholders,” he added.
Ramaphosa said South Africa was part of global efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine. He said the government was supporting and funding several research projects, including a plan to locally manufacture coronavirus vaccines as soon as candidates were available.
“We have known all along that the lockdown would only delay the spread of the virus, but that it would not be able to stop it. Until there is a vaccine available to all, the coronavirus will continue to spread in our population. This means that we must get used to living with the coronavirus for some time to come,” Ramaphosa said.
For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.
WATCH: President Ramaphosa’s address to the nation