Johannesburg – President Cyril Ramaphosa has asked citizens for patience and considered caution as the country will next week ease out of Level 5 lockdown and into Level 4 after weeks in their homes.
Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Thursday and announced plans to ease the country out of a national lockdown put in place to ensure that the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus is mitigated.
The president addressed the country as the latest figures of confirmed cases jumped to its highest numbers seen yet. The country has recorded 3953 cases of the virus with 75 deaths and 1474 people have recovered.
Ramaphosa said easing restrictions would follow a risk-adjusted strategy which would be guided by health research and analysis of cases and the risks.
There will be five levels to the alert system the country will employ. Level 5 is the most restrictive and is the one that the country is currently under.
From May 1, the country will be eased into Level 4, which differs slightly from Level 5 as some businesses will be allowed to operate. Not everyone will return to work and the public is encouraged to stay at home and leave only to purchase essential services.
Ramaphosa said those businesses that will operate will only be allowed to operate at a limited workforce, only one third.
Public transportation will be allowed to operate on restricted numbers and hygiene measures. Travelling between provinces will remain prohibited. The borders will remain closed.
Citizens were also encouraged to wear masks whenever they leave their homes.
What will change is on the sale of certain goods, Ramaphosa announced that cigarettes can be sold and public exercise will be allowed.
Ministers responsible for various portfolios will outline which industry will open up and which goods can be sold at a media briefing on Friday morning .
The president said the decision to ease restrictions was not easy as it was proven that a lockdown was the best measure to contain the virus. But a lockdown could not last forever.
“Our people need to eat. They need to earn a living. Companies need to be able to produce and to trade, they need to generate revenue and keep their employees in employment. We have accordingly decided that beyond Thursday 30 April, we should begin a gradual and phased recovery of economic activity.
“We will implement a risk-adjusted strategy through which we take a deliberate and cautious approach to the easing of current lockdown restrictions. We have decided on this approach because there is still much that is unknown about the rate and manner of the spread of the virus within our population,” the president said.
Ramaphosa also explained that the additional deployment of the SA National Defence Force was to help provide services such as water and infrastructure assistance.
“As part of expanding this effort, I have employed over 70,000 defence force personnel to assist with various parts of our coronavirus response. Until now, those defence force members that have been deployed have supported the South African Police Service in their responsibilities.
“They will continue to do so, but they will also be providing assistance in other essential areas, such as the provision of water supply, infrastructure maintenance and health services,” Ramaphosa said.
The president said he understood the frustrations of many who wanted their industries to open up, but he asked for caution and responsibility as the risks were being measured.
“There is no person who doesn’t want to return to work. There is no company that does not want to re-open. There is no student who does not want to return to their studies. Yet, we are all called upon, at some time in our lives, to make great sacrifices for our own future and for the future of others. There are times when we must endure hardship and difficulty so that we can enjoy freedom and prosperity into the future,” he said.
By Zintle Mahlati