Lockdown regulations will ease from Tuesday, removing almost all restrictions on the economy and seeing bans on the sale of tobacco products and alcohol lifted. Provincial borders will also reopen.
On Saturday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would move to level 2 of the risk-adjusted strategy from midnight on Monday.
“The move to level 2 means that we can remove nearly all of the restrictions on the resumption of economic activity across most industries,” Ramaphosa said.
The five-month lockdown has had a devastating effect on SA’s economy, which is expected to suffer anything between 7% and double-digit contraction for 2020.
The ban on tobacco sales cost the country more than R4bn in uncollected excise taxes, while the prohibition on the trade of alcohol, which was reinstated in July, has devastated a R140bn industry, leading to job losses and the world’s largest brewers, AB InBev and Heineken, cancelling or reconsidering investment plans.
Pressure had been mounting on Ramaphosa from business and labour to roll back the restrictions, lift the bans and fully open up the economy.
The lockdown has threatened Ramaphosa’s investment drive, with companies such as Sappi and Growthpoint reviewing spending plans that formed part of R360bn worth of investment commitments made in 2019.
Ramaphosa said the lower rate of Covid-19 infections had led to the relaxation of the restrictions.
Over the past three weeks, the number of new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus dropped from 12,000 a day to an average over the past week of 5,000 a day, he said.
The recovery rate from Covid-19 had risen from 48% at the time of the president’s last address to 80%. The cumulative number of cases was 583,653, with the number of active cases falling to about 105,000 currently.
“While there are indeed signs of hope, we cannot and must not let our guard down,” Ramaphosa said.
“As we continue to ease restrictions, the risk of infection does not diminish.”
Ramaphosa said the easing of restrictions would also see the tourism sector open, allowing South Africans to travel between provinces, and all hospitality, accommodation and tours permitted to operate according to approved health protocols that ensure social distancing.
However, the restrictions on international travel would remain in place, he said.
Restaurants, bars and taverns would be allowed to operate; however, alcohol would only be allowed to be sold until 10pm. The curfew will remain in place between 10pm and 4am.
Liquor outlets will be allowed to sell alcohol for off-site consumption from Monday to Thursday from 9am to 5pm.
Ramaphosa also announced that restrictions on family and social visits would be lifted, with citizens urged to exercise extreme caution and undertake such visits only if necessary.
“Familiarity with each other should not allow us to forget these precautions. As we ease restrictions, it is necessary that some measures remain in place to limit transmission and protect our health capacity,” he said.
Restrictions to remain in place were forbidding gatherings of more than 50 people, which included funerals and religious events.
Spectators would also not be permitted at sporting events.