President Cyril Ramaphosa drove home the frequently used phrase “the new normal” during his address to the nation on Wednesday night.
It’s a lifestyle that South Africans will have to maintain as the country navigates an almost post-lockdown situation in which the coronavirus remains very alive and active.
“Now is the time to return our country and economy to a time that is more normal, and resembles the lives that we were living six months ago,” Ramaphosa said.
A high level of awareness and hygiene must remain if the country is to avoid a “second wave” of infections, he said.
As of Wednesday, more than 650 000 people had contracted Covid-19 and over 15 600 people had died.
Compared with other countries, South Africa has a low mortality rate in relation to infection numbers. The recovery rate is now 89.4% and more than 584 000 people have survived, according to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).
“Although we have made remarkable progress, a number of our people are still getting infected, and some are losing their lives. By any measure we are still in the midst of a deadly epidemic,” Ramaphosa said.
On Wednesday, there were 1 923 cases and 64 deaths, the NICD said.
“Two months ago, at the height of the storm, we were recording around 12 000 new cases a day,” Ramaphosa said.
The moment calls for South Africans to move on with their lives and repair a storm-worn economy. To do so, some of the most stringent regulations have been eased under level one, which will come into effect at midnight on September 20.
λ Liquor sales: you will have an extra day to buy your tipple. They’re allowed from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.
λ Gyms and movies can now operate at 50% of pre-lockdown capacity.
λ Religious, political, and social gatherings are permitted, but indoor events are limited to 250 people and those outdoors to 500 people.
λ A hundred people, up from 50, can now attend a funeral.
Domestic travel has few restrictions. International travel will resume from October, but travellers from high-risk countries will be excluded. These countries are still to be named.
Ramaphosa said OR Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka airports will open for international business and leisure passengers, but travellers have to provide a Covid-19 clearance certificate no older than 72 hours. Those who did not will be quarantined at their own expense.
South Africans (and travellers) can jol for two more hours; the curfew has shifted from 10pm to midnight. It still ends at 4am.
People working in government departments will begin to return to work, but under strictly monitored conditions.
“We are ready to open our doors again to the world,” Ramaphosa said. But he reminded South Africans that they must wear masks, maintain a safe physical distance, and keep washing and sanitising their hands.