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LIVE BLOG: SA moves to level 1 lockdown

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his latest address to the nation on the latest regarding the country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.

Let us remain united, hopeful and determined as ever to face down this challenge.

May God continue to bless South Africa and protect her people.

I thank you.

This pandemic has taken much from us, but it has not taken our strength, our courage or our sense of solidarity as a people.

It has not dampened our spirit or weakened our resolve.

As we witnessed last year, our actions as individuals and as a collective will determine whether and how soon we experience a resurgence of the virus.

In the meantime, the virus continues to circulate in our families, our workplaces and our communities. 

For this reason, among others, the easing of restrictions should not be viewed as a reason to abandon precautions.

The threat of a third wave is constantly present, as is the threat of yet more new variants.

That is why all our energy and effort must now go into growing the economy – and this includes keeping infections down.

We expect businesses to implement the plans they may have put on hold. 

As we undertake further structural reforms, this will entrench the green shoots we have begun to see in the economy.

Our country’s public finances are, however, extremely constrained, and we cannot keep such relief measures in place indefinitely.

The return to Alert Level 1 means that most of the remaining restrictions on economic activity have been removed. 

These measures have been shown to be effective at reducing the economic impact of the pandemic on some of the most vulnerable in our society.

We have also extended the UIF’s special COVID-19 wage support benefit until 15 March 2021 for those sectors of the economy that have not been able to operate over this period.

As I announced in the State of the Nation Address, we have therefore extended the period for the Special COVID-19 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.

Even as economic activity returns, even as we roll out our employment stimulus and infrastructure investment programmes, even as we undertake economic reforms with greater urgency, many businesses are still struggling.

We must do this to restore our country to growth and get people back into work.

We must do all this both so that we defeat the pandemic and so that we can accelerate our economic recovery.

As we have said in the past vaccines are now the most effective measure that we have. 

Still, we will only be able to ultimately overcome the pandemic if we continue to practice all the other prevention measures as well.

We must continue these measures even as more and more people are 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.

Following these measures is about protecting yourself, your family and your community. 

It is about being responsible and caring.

Please go for a test if you have any symptoms of COVID-19.

These measures are not merely to protect each of us but to also protect those we love and care for. 

Nearly two million South Africans are already using the COVID Alert SA mobile app to be notified if they are exposed to the virus.

Therefore, social distancing is even more critical.

Wearing a mask and avoiding crowds is even more important.

And it is now even more important that we all download the COVID Alert SA mobile app onto our cellphones.

The new variant – known as 501Y.v2 – is now the dominant variant in the country.

Because the new variant is transmitted more easily, it has the potential to infect more people, place a greater strain on our health system and lead to a greater loss of life.

The few remaining restrictions under Alert Level 1 are meant to maintain low levels of infections and, in particular, to prevent super-spreading events.

These are OR Tambo, Cape Town, King Shaka, Kruger Mpumalanga and Lanseria airports.

As we ease restrictions, we cannot let our guard down.

Only five airports will be open for international travel with standard infection control measures. 

The 33 land border posts that have been closed throughout this period will remain closed, while the other 20 will remain open.

Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50 per cent of the capacity of the venue may be used.

These include religious, social, political and cultural gatherings.

The maximum number of people allowed at any gathering is 100 people indoors or 250 people outdoors.

Gatherings will be permitted, subject to limitations on size, adherence to social distancing and other health protocols.

Nightclubs are still to be closed.

Night vigils are still not allowed.

Curfew now moves from between midnight to 5am.

SA will move to level 1 later this evening when regulations are gazetted.

Some restrictions will be eased, cabinet has decided 

The country has passed the second wave with under 1,000 new infections being recorded, compared to a 40,000 in January and in December 

The second wave was far more devastating.

"We will be secured," Ramaphosa said with regards to vaccine does.

Once healthcare workers are vaccinated, we will begin with phase 2 of the roll out in late April to early May. This will include elderly, essential workers, institutional workers and those with comobordities. Many more sites will be activated to reach as many people in the shortest possible time. An agreement with J&J has been reached to receive a total of 11 million doses. 20 million does will be secured from Phizer. 12 million has been secured from the Covax facility.

Additional 80,000 J&J vaccines arrived yesterday.

By next week, we will have 49 vaccination sites across the country. 32 will be at public hospitals, 17 at private hospitals.

"We have now started our vaccine programme. In 10 days since we started our vaccination programme, more than 67,000 healthworkers have been vaccinated."

"We've long held the belief that a vaccine would be our most decisive measure..."

"SA scientists have made an important contribution to vaccine efforts and have contributed to global knowledge about the disease. Our scientists have really led the way."

"Much has changed in our country and in our lives. The spirit of our people has not changed. You have endured the greatest hardships... but you have remained hopeful."

"This Friday will mark one year since the first case of coronavirus was reported in our country."

Ramaphosa begins his address.

So far, 67,303 healthcare workers have received the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Department of Health.

Under current lockdown restrictions, the sale of alcohol is only permitted from Mondays to Thursdays between 10am - 6pm, on-site alcohol consumption of alcohol is allowed between 10am and 10pm, faith-based gatherings are restricted to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors and the daily curfew is between 11am and 4pm.

The address follows meetings in recent days of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), the President’s Coordinating Council (PCC) and Cabinet.

South Africa is still currently under adjusted lockdown level 3 restrictions. Ramaphosa is expected to announce how the lockdown will be adjusted going into the month of March, as schools and businesses are in full swing for the year already.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to deliver his latest address to the nation on the latest regarding the country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.