Level 3 restrictions eased as Covid-19 infection rate drops
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Johannesburg – President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the further easing of lockdown level 3 restrictions because of a downward trend in hospital admissions and infections.
Ramaphosa addressed the country on Monday night. He said over the past seven days the country had seen a steady decline in infections from an average of more than 10 000 to 5 500.
He said there were still concerns over infections, especially with a more infectious variant of the coronavirus spreading throughout the country.
Ramaphosa said hospital admissions were also on the decline. At the peak of the second wave of the pandemic, hospital admissions averaged 2 400 per day and were now 295 per day.
"While all the indicators are heading in the right direction, we are still experiencing relatively high rates of transmission.
’’We are pleased that, across the country, most people are adhering to the restrictions we have had to impose and are diligently observing the basic health measures needed to prevent infection," Ramaphosa said.
He acknowledged that the restrictions in place to prevent infections had dire consequences for certain industries. For this reason the government did not plan to extend restrictions for longer than was needed.
He said some restrictions could be eased as the rate of infection was on a downward trend.
The curfew will now be from 11pm until 4am. Restaurants and bars will have to close at 10pm to allow staff to leave early.
He also announced the much-awaited lifting of the alcohol ban. The sale of alcohol will remain restricted between Monday and Thursday, between 10am and 6pm, for off-site consumption sales, while licensed establishments will be allowed to sell alcohol from 10am to 10pm during the week.
Ramaphosa also said faith-based institutions would be allowed to resume operations under strict health protocols.
"Faith-based gatherings will be permitted, subject to health protocols. Such gatherings may not exceed 50 people for indoor venues and 100 persons for outdoor venues.
’’Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used.
"Public places such as beaches, dams, rivers, parks and public swimming pools will be reopened, subject to health protocols," the president said.
Ramaphosa cautioned the public to continue adhering to health protocols and restrictions even with the hope of vaccinations on the horizon.
"Even as we roll out the vaccination programme throughout the year, and as we steadily work to reduce the number of new infections, we will need to continue to observe careful precautions to reduce transmission.
"This is particularly important as the new variant of the virus – 501Y.V2 – is now widespread across the country.
’’We know that it is more infectious than the earlier strain and is therefore far more likely to drive another resurgence of infections and increase the demand on our health facilities," he said.