South Africa moves to alert level 1 after 130-day Covid-19 third wave

South Africans will be relieved to have to contend with fewer Covid-19 restrictions after four months of grappling with a third wave of the pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday September 30, announcing a move to level one lockdown.

“The current trends in the progression of the pandemic mean that a number of restrictions in place can be eased,” Ramaphosa said in a national address broadcast live on TV.

“At the peak of the third wave, we were recording around 20 000 new cases each day. In the last seven days, the average number of new cases was at around 1 800 a day. There are also sustained decreases in Covid-19 hospitalisations, as well as deaths in all provinces.”

The move to alert level 1 comes a month before South Africans head to voting stations for local government elections on 1 November. 

Level 1 entails:

  • A later and shorter curfew, from midnight to 4am;
  • Non-essential establishments like restaurants, bars and fitness centres can now close at 11pm.
  • Religious, social, political and cultural gatherings are allowed to host 750 people indoors and 2 000 people outdoors. Gatherings are still subject to the health protocols of physical distancing, hand sanitising and the wearing of masks. 
  • Funerals can be attended by 100 people, up from 50, but night vigils and after-funeral gatherings remain prohibited.  
  • It is still mandatory to wear face masks in public and not doing so can result in a criminal offence; and
  • Trading hours for alcohol sales are almost back to normal. 

“The sale of alcohol for both off-site and onsite consumption will be permitted according to the normal licence provisions of such establishments. However, no alcohol may be sold after 11pm,” Ramaphosa said. 

He emphasised that campaign activities leading up to the elections posed the “greatest risk” to a surge in new infections and called on all stakeholders — including party supporters and election staff — to ensure regulations and health protocols were observed.

Announcements about sporting and cultural events will be made in due course, the president said. He renewed his plea for more South Africans to get vaccinated against Covid-19, saying immunisation rates were still “far too slow”.

“We have therefore decided to upscale our vaccination campaign by launching the Vuma vaccination weekend’s campaign from tomorrow [Friday 1 October],” Ramaphosa said.

Vaccination sites across the country will be open over weekends to allow people who work during the week to get their Covid-19 jabs.

Nationwide, 8.6-million people have been fully vaccinated, while more than 17-million have received at least one dose of the Pfizer two-shot vaccine. 
South Africa has recorded more than 2.7-million Covid-19 infections since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, by far the highest national tally in Africa. More than 87 500 people have succumbed to the virus as of Wednesday 29 September.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a junior daily news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She was previously a freelance journalist and a broadcaster at Maroela Media and Smile90.4FM.

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