President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that most of South Africa will move to level 3 lockdown from the end of May. Areas, where the Covid-19 infection rates are particularly high, will remain on level 4.
This means that more businesses will be allowed to operate, providing a much-needed boost for the economy.
“We will immediately begin a process of consultation with the relevant stakeholders on the proposal that by the end of May most of the country should be placed on alert level 3, but that those parts of the country with the highest rates of infection remain on level 4,” Ramaphosa said.
“We will make further announcements in this regard after the completion of the consultations we will have.”
Ramaphosa stressed that implementing the lockdown was essential to prevent a surge in infections and enable government to put the measures in place to deal with the pandemic.
“Our response has been guided by advice from world-leading experts,” Ramaphosa said.
“The best current estimate is that, without the lockdown and the other measures we have taken, at least 80,000 South Africans could have been infected by now. And the death toll could have been at least 8 times higher than it is.”
Ramaphosa thanked South Africans for adhering to the lockdown and enduring the sacrifices that it entailed.
“It is nearly 7 weeks since we implemented a nation-wide lockdown. During this time, South Africans have demonstrated great courage, resilience, and responsibility. I once again thank you for the sacrifices you have made thus far,” he said.
The president said that amendments to level 4 regulations will be announced in the coming days.
South Africa is in Day 48 of the national lockdown and the country has recorded 219 Covid-19 related deaths, lower than many Western countries offering advanced public health services. On May 1, the country eased to level 4 lockdown which saw some industries being allowed to operate and the delivery of takeaway food allowed.
“We now have nearly 25 000 additional beds available for quarantine with substantial amounts of PPE,” the president said.
Ramaphosa also thanked the United States for donating 1 000 ventilators to assist with South Africa’s response to the coronavirus.
The DA has urged the government to end the lockdown and reopen the economy, with extensive safety measures in place to protect workers and the public.
The party said the lockdown regulations had acquired an overtly political overtone and the confinement restrictions had largely outlived their purpose in slowing the spread of transmission while the health system braces for higher numbers of infections.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said this week that the sooner the restrictions were eased from the current level 4 to level 3, the better. It is also demanding the sanitization of workplaces and public transport, as well as greater community health efforts.
Cosatu is in favour of placing different parts of the country on different levels of restrictions, based on the severity of the outbreak in a particular area. – Additional reporting by African News Agency (ANA)