Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned South Africans against letting their guard down, saying that despite receiving the first consignment of the Covid-19 vaccine, the real threat of a third wave was not far off the horizon.
He made the remarks when announcing the easing of alert level 3 lockdown regulations which will see the sale of alcohol, opening of beaches and a relaxed curfew.
“It is up to us not to let down our guard, and to prevent a third wave of infections. It is up to us to protect ourselves, our families and our communities. It is up to us to get vaccinated as soon as we are eligible and stop the virus from spreading further,” he said.
Among the reasons for the adjusted alert level 3 was that South Africa had passed the peak of the second wave, he said.
“The first good news is the arrival today of the vaccines. The second is that we have recorded our lowest daily increase in infections since the beginning of December last year,” Ramaphosa said.
The average rate of new infections has been coming down steadily over the past three weeks.
In the past seven days, the daily average of new infections was around 5 500, compared to just over 10 000 infections in the previous seven days.
At the peak of the second wave, the country recorded more than 2 300 hospital admissions in a day.
This had fallen to 295 hospital admissions by January 29, he said.
“I address you this evening as we begin a new chapter in our struggle against the coronavirus. The arrival of these vaccines contains the promise that we can turn the tide on this disease that has caused so much devastation and hardship in our country and across the world.
“The speed and scale at which new vaccines have been developed is unprecedented in human history and represents the monumental progress that humanity can achieve in the face of a common threat.
“South Africa has been part of this incredible journey by the global community in the search for a lasting solution to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
He said the government was sourcing vaccines from a number of suppliers and had, among others, secured 12 million doses in total from the global Covax facility and 9 million vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson.
“While all the indicators are heading in the right direction, we are still experiencing relatively high rates of transmission.
“With the clear decline in new infections, hospital admissions and deaths, the Cabinet has decided to steadily ease a number of restrictions under adjusted level 3,” he said.
The hours of the curfew will now be from 11pm to 4am. Establishments will need to close by 10pm to allow their customers and staff to return home by curfew.
Faith-based gatherings will be permitted, subject to health protocols. Gatherings may not exceed 50 people for indoor venues and 100 persons for outdoor venues.
Public places including beaches, dams, rivers, parks and public swimming pools will be reopened.
Restrictions on the sale of alcohol will be eased.
“The sale of alcohol by licensed premises for off-site consumption will be permitted from Mondays to Thursdays, from 10am to 6pm.
“Duty-free shops, registered wineries, wine farms, micro-breweries and micro-distilleries will be able to sell alcohol for off-site consumption during their normal licensed operating hours,” Ramaphosa said.
The sale of alcohol by licensed premises for on-site consumption – such as restaurants and taverns – will be permitted throughout the week from 10am to 10pm.
Several prevention measures, however, will remain in place.
Social gatherings, political events, traditional council meetings and gatherings at sports grounds will not be permitted and funerals may not be attended by more than 50 people.