The country has moved to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) alert level 1 but government urges people to continue with all the precautionary measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.
The wearing of face masks remains compulsory and there are still some restrictions to maintain low levels of infections and, in particular, to prevent super-spreading events. It has been a year since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in South Africa. More than 1.5 million people have been infected and over 50 000 have died from the disease.
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, has provided details of the regulations that have changed, including the new curfew, which is from midnight to 4am. People may only be out of their properties during this time if they have a permit or a security or medical emergency.
The maximum number of people attending a religious, social, political or cultural gathering is 100 indoors or 250 outdoors, provided that the venue is big enough to allow for social distancing.
The number of people attending a funeral is limited to 100. If the venue is too small for people to be at least one-and-a-half metres from each other, then not more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used. Night vigils or after-funeral gatherings, including ‘after-tears’ gatherings, are not allowed.
Land borders: Nothing changes as the 20 land borders which have been operating remain as such and the 33 land borders which were closed, remain closed.
Air borders: The five airports that are permitted to allow international travel remain OR Tambo, Cape Town, King Shaka, Lanseria and Kruger Mpumalanga.
All restrictions on alcohol sales are lifted. Normal trade will be allowed – except for sales during curfew hours. Nightclubs remain closed.
South Africa started its vaccine roll-out on 17 February. The President was among the first people to be vaccinated.
“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,” said President Ramaphosa.
He said enough vaccine doses had been secured to administer 43 million jabs by the end of 2021:
- 11 million doses will come from Johnson & Johnson. Of these, 2.8 million doses will be delivered in the second quarter and the rest spread throughout the year.
- 20 million doses from Pfizer will be delivered from the second quarter of the year.
- 12 million vaccine doses have been secured from the COVAX facility.
- Government is in the process of finalising the dose allocation from the African Union.
South Africa has 49 vaccination sites across the country, including in rural areas. There are 32 sites at public hospitals and 17 at private hospitals.
Once the vaccination of healthcare workers has been completed, phase two of the vaccine roll-out will begin in late April or early May. Phase two will include the elderly, essential workers, persons living or working in institutional settings and those with comorbidities.
“For this phase, we will be activating many more sites for vaccination in the public and private healthcare sectors so that we can reach as many people as possible in the shortest possible time,” said President Ramaphosa.
Special COVID-19 Grant
President Ramaphosa said though the country’s public finances are under pressure, government extended the period for the Special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant by a further three months, until the end of April.
“Many people still do not have their jobs back and many households are still feeling the effect of having lost much of their income,” he said.
Now that most restrictions have been removed, it is hoped economic activity will get back to normal, allowing South Africans to work and trade.
While the number of new infections, hospital admissions and deaths has dropped, President Ramaphosa has asked that South Africans do not let their guard down as recklessness might lead the country to a third wave of infections.
“The easing of restrictions should not be viewed as a reason to abandon precautions,” he said.