President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday evening that South Africa’s COVID-19 hotspots to remain in level 4 as most parts of the country move to level 3.
“We will immediately begin a process of consultation with relevant stakeholders on a proposal that by the end of May, most of the country be placed on alert level 3, but that those parts of the country with the highest rates of infection remain on level 4,” Ramaphosa said.
“It is important that we maintain stringent restrictions in these areas and restrict travel out of these areas to parts of the country with lower rates of infection. For now, infections are mostly concentrated in a few metropolitan municipalities and districts in the country.
“This would be done according to the rate of infection in an area and the state of readiness and the capacity of its health facilities to cope with treating infected people. As I indicated then, some areas of the country may be designated at a particular alert level, while others may be designated at other levels.”
Alert level 4 – which is the current level across the country – retains most of the lockdown regulations but permits the gradual opening up of certain parts of the economy. Alert levels 3 to 1 allow for progressively greater relaxation of restrictions.
Ramaphosa warned that easing the lockdown must be done with extreme caution to prevent the spikes in COVID-19 infections we have seen elsewhere in the world.
Government’s differentiated approach will allow economic activity to resume while protecting public health.
“In the coming days, we will also be announcing certain changes to level 4 regulations to expand permitted business activities in the retail space and ecommerce and reduce restrictions on exercise,” said Ramaphosa.
“In the coming days, we will also be announcing certain changes to level 4 regulations to expand permitted business activities in the retail space and ecommerce and reduce restrictions on exercise.
“It is important that we maintain stringent restrictions in these areas and restrict travel out of these areas to parts of the country with lower rates of infection.”
Without the lockdown, the number of coronavirus infections would have soared uncontrollably, Ramaphosa said, adding that “our health facilities would have been overwhelmed and many thousands more South Africans would have died.”
“From the very beginning, our response has been guided by advice from world-leading experts from our own country and across the globe. We have also benefited from the guidance from the World Health Organisation.”
“There is clear evidence that the lockdown has allowed us to achieve our objective of delaying the spread of Covid-19 & avoiding a massive surge in infections that would have overwhelmed our health care system.”
The president added that this crisis has deepened poverty, increased hunger & intensified inequalities in our country. Additional social support measures are being implemented to help lessen the impact on the poor & the most vulnerable.