President Cyril Ramaphosa reopens the country

16 September 2020 - 20:24 By aphiwe deklerk and aphiwe deklerk
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Wednesday night.
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Wednesday night.
Image: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa effectively reopened the country after he announced a move to alert level 1 of the lockdown as of midnight on Sunday.

Addressing the nation on Wednesday night, Ramaphosa announced the easing of most of the lockdown regulations which were put in place about six months ago in response to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The reopening includes the return of international travel both for leisure and business - subject to certain requirements, including limiting travel to and from countries that show high numbers of Covid-19 cases.

“We have withstood the coronavirus storm - now is the time to return the 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,” said Ramaphosa.

He said it was time to move to what he called the "new normal" for as long as the coronavirus is with us.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on September 16 2020 that South Africa will be moving to lockdown alert level 1 from September 20 2020. Ramaphosa announced that many restrictions will be lifted, including international travel restrictions on 1 October 2020. Ramaphosa consulted with business, labour and the tourism industry before his address.

“It is now time to remove as many of the remaining restrictions on economic and social activities as it is reasonably safe to do. Following consultation with a number of stakeholders ... cabinet decided this morning that the country should now move to alert level 1. The move to alert level 1 will take effect on Sunday September 20,” said Ramaphosa.

He said the move recognised that levels of infections are relatively low and that there was sufficient capacity in the health systems to manage the current need.

“With the move to alert level 1, we will gradually and cautiously ease restrictions on international travel. We will be allowing travelling into and out of South Africa for business, leisure and other travel with effect from October 1,” he said.

“This is subject to various containment and mitigation measures. Travel may be restricted to and from certain countries that have high infection rates. A list of those countries will be published and will be based on the latest scientific data that we will be able to get.”

He said travellers will only be able to use one of the land ports of entry or one of the three main international airports: Cape Town, OR Tambo and King Shaka. 

Conditions for acceptance in the country include a requirement to produce a negative Covid-19 test result that is not older than 72 hours from their time of departure, failing which they will be quarantined at their own cost.

He said the move was also effectively reopening the doors to the world to come and enjoy the country's tourism attractions.

With the new changes, Ramaphosa announced an easing of the curfew to between midnight and 4am, a move which will also extend the operation of restaurants and onsite consumption of alcohol venues.

He said the sale of alcohol will now be permitted from Monday and Friday between 9am and 5pm.

“The move to alert level 1 will mean a further easing on gatherings, social, religious, political and other gatherings will now be permitted - as long as the number of people does not exceed 50% of the normal capacity of a venue or the facility,” said Ramaphosa.

“But this must only be to a maximum of 250 people for indoor gatherings and 500 people for outdoor gatherings.”

He warned that precautions such as social distancing, wearing of masks, sanitising and washing of hands should strictly be applicable.

“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.”

He said venues of entertainment, recreation and exercise will now be allowed to accommodate up to 50% of their venues' capacity, as determined by available floor space, subject to social distancing and other protocols.

Sporting events, however, will not see any relaxation on restrictions.

The Independent Electoral Commission will now be allowed to visit homes, old age homes and health facilities for voter registration and special voter purposes.