Coronavirus: South Africa eases strict lockdown as cases drop

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A girl wearing a mask looks on through a bus window in Eikenhof, south of Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: August 2020Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
South Africa went into a national lockdown on 27 March

South Africa, which had one of the world's earliest and strictest lockdowns, has announced a further easing of anti-coronavirus measures.

From 20 September an overnight curfew will be reduced, gatherings will be allowed at 50% of a venue's capacity, and restrictions on the sale of alcohol will be eased.

"We have withstood the coronavirus storm," said President Cyril Ramaphosa.

But rules on social distancing and mask-wearing will remain in place.

South Africa - which went into a national lockdown on 27 March - has so far reported more than 650,000 confirmed infections, with over 15,000 deaths.

However, the number of new cases has dropped from about 12,000 per day in July to fewer than 2,000.

What did President Ramaphosa say?

"Now is the time to return our country, its people and our economy to a situation that is more normal, that more resembles the lives that we were living six months ago," Mr Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation.

"It is time to move to what will become our new normal for as long as the coronavirus is with us."

Media caption,

Coronavirus in South Africa: A day in the life of a contact tracer

The president announced that following consultations with health experts and officials from across South Africa, the country would lower its current alert Level 2 to Level 1 from midnight on 20 September.

This means that:

  • Social, religious, political and other gatherings will be permitted, as long as the number of people does not exceed 50% of the normal capacity of a venue, up to a maximum of 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors
  • The maximum number of people who can attend a funeral is increased from 50 to 100
  • Venues for exercise, recreation and entertainment - such as gyms and theatres - currently limited to 50 people, will be allowed to accommodate up to 50% of their venue's capacity
  • The national 22:00 - 04:00 curfew will start two hours later
  • ·Alcohol sales for off-site consumption will now be allowed on Fridays from 09:00 to 17:00, as well as Mondays to Thursdays

South Africa shut its borders at the start of the lockdown, but President Ramaphosa said that international travel would resume from 1 October. Those arriving in South Africa must present a negative coronavirus test taken within three days of travel.

Mr Ramaphosa also said that a further stimulus package was being drawn up to rebuild an economy that has been savaged by the lockdown.

Media caption,

How not to wear a face mask

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