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Ramaphosa: Now's the time to return SA to a situation that's more normal

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday that from midnight on Sunday, movements on social and economic activities would be eased.

President Cyril Ramaphosa during his address on COVID-19 measures on 16 September 2020. Picture: GCIS

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday evening announced the substantial relaxing of lockdown regulations under alert level 1.

The president announced that from midnight on Sunday, movements on social and economic activities would be eased.

READ: President Ramaphosa's full speech on easing of lockdown to alert level 1

The country has been in different stages of lockdown for almost six months now in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus that has infected more than 650,000 South Africans and claimed over 15,000 lives.

But Ramaphosa said with a slowdown in the infection rate and the recovery rate increasing to 89%, the country was ready to move to the next phase.

“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,” he said. “It is time to move to what will become our new normal for as long as the coronavirus is with us.”

WATCH: Alert level 1 lockdown: All you need to know

The president has increased the people allowed to convene at venues at once.

“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 for indoor gatherings and 500 people for outdoor gatherings,” Ramaphosa said.

“Health protocols, such as washing or sanitising of hands, social distancing and mask-wearing, will need to be strictly observed,” he added.

While funerals would be getting bigger and the curfew was moved later, night vigils remained forbidden.

“The maximum number of people who may attend a funeral is increased from 50 to 100 due to the higher risk of viral transmission at funerals. Night vigils are still not permitted,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa also made a slight change to alcohol sales.

“The sale of alcohol at retail outlets for home consumption is now permitted from Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm. Alcohol will be permitted for on-site consumption in licensed establishments only and with strict adherence to the curfew,” he said.

The president implored all South Africans to download the free COVID-19 app, which alerts users if they have been in close contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks.

Adjustments were made to the Loan Guarantee Scheme to make it easier for companies of any size to access credit at low-interest rates, with repayments delayed for as much as 12 months.

REOPENING OF BOARDERS

From 1 October, the nation’s borders will reopen, and South Africans will be allowed to travel outside of the country for business and leisure.

Ramaphosa said that government would gradually and cautiously ease restrictions on international travel.

“Travel may be restricted to and from certain countries that have high infection rates. A list of countries will be published based on the latest scientific data,” Ramaphosa said.

He said that travellers could only use one of the land border posts that were operational during lockdown or one of the country’s three main airports, King Shaka, OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airport.

But what happens to travellers upon arrival?

“On arrival, travellers will need to present a negative COVID-19 test result not older than 72 hours from time of departure. Where a traveller has not done a COVID-19 test prior to departure, they will be required to remain in mandatory quarantine at their own cost,” Ramaphosa said.

He added: “All travellers will be screened on arrival and those presenting with symptoms will be required to remain in quarantine until a repeat COVID-19 test is conducted. All travellers will be asked to install the COVID Alert South Africa mobile app.”

The president said that in preparation for the reopening of the boarders, South African missions abroad would open for visa applications and long-term visas would be reinstated.

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