South Africa moves to lockdown level 2

Alcohol and tobacco sales permitted

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Munashe Rungano

Capetown-The National Coronavirus Command Council has lifted the ban on the sale of alcohol and cigarette, said President Cyril Ramaphosa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on developments in South Africa’s risk-adjusted strategy to manage the spread of COVID-19.

The President’s address followed a meeting earlier this week of the National Coronavirus Command Council and meetings today of the President’s Coordinating Council and Cabinet.

Praising his government’s response to the pandemic, President Ramaphosa spoke of a new phase, and signs of hope.

“The move to Level-2 means that we can remove nearly all the restrictions on the resumption of economic activity across most industries,” Ramaphosa said

“Economic activity will be allowed with necessary and appropriate stringent health protocols and safety precautions in place,” the president said. The controversial ban on tobacco products and alcohol, which has seen a number of cases being filed in courts against the government during the lockdown, has also been lifted, subject to some restrictions on hours of sale.

Ramaphosa  cautioned people that difficult days still lay ahead and pleaded for all to continue non-pharmaceutical interventions of wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, taking extra precautions for the elderly and those with co-morbidities, and working from home as far as possible. “We cannot become complacent or abandon the health precautions that we know we need to take. Even the slightest lapse in our alertness at this moment could lead to resurgence in infections at a rate and on a scale far greater than what we have seen so far,” Ramaphosa  said.

The official death toll is 11,000. But a quick, aggressive response has enabled most hospitals and provinces to contain an outbreak many feared would overwhelm the nation.

The relaxed lockdown restrictions come as South Africa sees a decline in reported coronavirus cases and deaths across the country.

“We have seen in the past few weeks that we’re getting the country over the surge,” said Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on Friday.

“We started calling each other to ask if we’re missing something and what has happened to the tests? Our starting point was to talk to the laboratory services and ask if they have enough diagnostic kits to conduct the tests and they assured us that they have,” he said, adding that there is no backlog.

The major provinces that were carrying the highest burden of the virus are on a downward trend, while some have plateaued.

“We’re very optimistic, but we’re very cautious about it because we don’t know why that happened. While the surge was anticipated, the surge has happened in numbers that are much less than originally planned,” he said.

However, he said that the lockdown had an impact in slowing down the spread.

“Nevertheless, we’re saying we remain cautious as we have so many more months to still traverse and be sure we’re over the problem.”

Mkhize said it looks like the country is over the peak even though the predictions project that there is still another two months of concern about a possible surge.

“We have received queries as to why there would be a need for the surge team if we are past the peak. The explanation is that we can never take anything for granted, we’d rather err on the side of caution,” he said.

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