South African President Cyril Ramaphosa eased coronavirus lockdown restrictions in a bid to revive an economy reeling from the effects of the pandemic and a week of deadly riots in July.
The move to virus alert level 2 from level 3 comes as the third wave of Covid-19 infections drop and will allow for greater activity in an economy seen contracting in the third quarter because of the unrest.
“While the third wave is not yet over, we have seen a sustained decline in infections across the country over the last few weeks,” Ramaphosa said Sunday in a televised speech. “With the decline of infections across all provinces, the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 has recommended an easing of restrictions.”
Among the restrictions being eased are:
- Alcohol-trading hours will be extended by one day, from Monday to Friday
- Non-essential establishments including restaurants and bars will be allowed to remain open until 10 p.m., one hour later than under alert level 3
- The curfew will be shorted to 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., from 10 p.m to 4 a.m.
- The number of people permitted at public gatherings will increase to a maximum of 250 people indoors, from 50 previously, and 500 outdoors from 100 before.
Allowing more people to congregate in public spaces will make it easier for political parties to campaign for municipal elections scheduled for early November. The lockdown restrictions will be reviewed in two weeks, depending on the state of the pandemic, Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa appealed to South Africans to get vaccinated, as the nation prepares for a fourth wave of infections that is forecast to begin in early December. That could prompt stricter lockdown measures amid vaccine hesitancy, electricity-supply constraints and the slow pace of structural reforms that may further weigh on output in the second half of the year.
“When we are vaccinated, we will be able to return our economy to full operation and create the jobs that our country needs,” Ramaphosa said.
He reiterated that the government is considering introducing vaccine passports as part of the effort to reopen the economy fully. More details will be announced in two weeks, he said.
South Africa has had 2.86 million confirmed coronavirus cases so far, the most on the continent. Almost 85,000 of those who’ve been diagnosed with the disease have died. About 14.6 million vaccine doses have been administered in the country so far.
© 2021 Bloomberg