President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that based on an assessment of the current state of the pandemic in the country, cabinet has decided to move the country from Coronavirus Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 1.
Ramaphosa said when he last addressed the nation, at the beginning of this month, the country had passed the peak of the second wave of coronavirus infections.
“Driven by a new variant of the virus, the second wave was far more devastating and caused greater loss of life than the first wave. The country has now clearly emerged from the second wave,” he said.
“New infections, admissions to hospital and deaths have fallen significantly and continue to decline steadily. In the week that has just passed, the country recorded just under 10,000 new infections.”
He explained that a month ago, in the last week of January, the country recorded over 40,000 new cases. And a month before that, in the last week of December, the country recorded close to 90,000 new cases.
“This dramatic decline in cases over eight weeks is due to a combination of the public health measures introduced, changes in behaviour and accumulating immunity in those who became infected in our communities,” the president said.
Some of the Level One restrictions include:
- The wearing of masks in public places is still mandatory, and failure to wear a mask when required remains a criminal offence.
- The hours of the curfew will now be from 00:00 to 04:00.
- Gatherings will be permitted, subject to limitations on size, adherence to social distancing and other health protocols. These include religious, social, political and cultural gatherings.
- The maximum number of people allowed at any gathering is 100 people indoors or 250 people outdoors. Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used.
- Night vigils or other gatherings before or after funerals are still not permitted. Nightclubs will remain closed.
- The sale of alcohol will be permitted, according to normal license provisions. However, no alcohol may be sold during the hours of curfew.
- The 33 land border posts that have been closed throughout this period will remain closed, while the other 20 will remain open.
- Only five airports will be open for international travel with standard infection control measures. These are OR Tambo, Cape Town, King Shaka, Kruger Mpumalanga and Lanseria airports.
Ramaphosa said we were able to emerge from the second wave because most people adhered to the tighter restrictions and observed the basic health protocols, including wearing masks in public and social distancing.
He added that the measures government had to put in place in December were necessary to contain infections and prevent our health facilities from being overwhelmed. They were necessary to save lives.
“As we ease restrictions, we cannot let our guard down. The few remaining restrictions under Alert Level 1 are meant to maintain low levels of infections and, in particular, to prevent super-spreading events,” he said.
The president said vaccines significantly reduce the likelihood of a person developing symptoms and becoming seriously ill, and they reduce the overall rate of infection in a population.
He explained that once the vaccination of healthcare workers has been completed, we will begin with phase two of the vaccine roll-out in late April or early May. Phase 2 will include the elderly, essential workers, persons living or working in institutional settings and those with co-morbidities.