President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that the whole of South Africa will move to Alert Level 2, as of August 17, 2020 at midnight. This after five months of being in a national state of disaster, instituted to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The national state of disaster is extended to September 15, 2020, “to keep the remaining restrictions in place and to maintain some of the essential elements of our health response.”

Nearly all of the restrictions on the resumption of economic activity across most industries can now be removed.

Lifted restrictions:

  • All restrictions on inter-provincial travel will be lifted.
  • Accommodation, hospitality venues and tours will be permitted according to approved protocols to ensure social distancing.
  • Restaurants, bars and taverns will be permitted to operate according to approved protocols as to times of operation and numbers of people.
  • Restrictions on the sale of tobacco will be lifted.
  • The suspension of the sale of alcohol will be lifted subject to certain restrictions:
    Alcohol will be permitted for on-site consumption in licensed establishments only up until 10pm.
    Liquor outlets will be allowed to sell alcohol for off-site consumption from Monday to Thursday during the hours of 9am to 5pm only.
  • Restrictions on family and social visits will also be lifted, although everyone is urged to exercise extreme caution and undertake such visits only if necessary.

Still restricted:

  • Current restrictions on international travel remain in place.
  • No gatherings of more than 50 people will be permitted.
  • Spectators aren’t permitted at sporting events.
  • The curfew remains in place between 10pm and 4am.

Regarding family and social visits, he said social distancing should be observed, masks continue to be worn and special care taken to protect the elderly and people with underlying conditions. He encouraged staying at home and for those who could, to work from home – especially those over the age of 60 or who have underlying conditions.

Recovery plan

The social partners in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) – including government, labour, business and community – convened on Thursday and Ramaphosa said it’s now working together “on an urgent economic recovery programme that places the protection and creation of employment at its centre.”

He said announcements on the outcome will be made in the next few weeks.

Read: Task team set up to finalise urgent economic recovery plan

Earlier this week, Cosatu’s parliamentary coordinator Matthew Parks said proposals by the social partners will be consolidated into one position, that will form the basis for the economic recovery trajectory for the country.

This is expected to be complete in the next three weeks, after which the social partners will hold a meeting to consider and adopt the plan. The plan will then be presented to cabinet. In a statement on Thursday, The Presidency said the team will focus on job creation, having a sectoral approach, prioritising infrastructure, energy security and working on the bottlenecks to economic growth.

Covid-19 stats

The president said “all indications are that South Africa has reached the peak and moved beyond the inflection point of the curve,” with the number of new confirmed cases dropping over the last three weeks from a peak of over 12 000 a day to an average over the past week of around 5 000 a day.

The cumulative number of cases is at 583 653, and 11 667 people are confirmed to have died from the virus.

However, the recovery rate has risen to 80% and the number of active cases is now around 105 000 and “declining every day”. He said the virus seems to have peaked in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and possibly KwaZulu-Natal.

“Fewer people are requiring admission in our hospitals and the demand for coronavirus tests has dropped. The number of patients hospitalised has decreased from 10 000 at the beginning of the month to around 4 000. This is significantly reducing the pressure on our health facilities,” said Ramaphosa.

He noted that on request from the health minister, the World Health Organisation has sent 43 experts to South Africa to assist local health professionals. “They are already providing help with regard to epidemiological analysis, infection control, incident management and community engagement.”