South Africa will ease the Covid-19 lockdown from level four to level three beginning from June 1, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Sunday amid a surge in confirmed cases.
"Moving to alert level three marks a significant shift in our approach to the pandemic," Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation.
Level three will allow the opening of the economy and the removal of a number of restrictions on the movement of people, while significantly expanding and intensifying the public health interventions, said Ramaphosa.
RETURN TO WORK
With up to eight million people returning to work, the implementation of alert level three will involve the return to operation for most sectors of the economy, subject to observance of strict health protocols and social distancing rules, he said.
The opening of the economy and other activities means that more public servants will be called back to work, accompanied by the phased re-opening of schools, Ramaphosa said.
All gatherings will remain prohibited, except for funerals with no more than 50 people or meetings in the workplace for work purposes.
The national borders will remain closed except for the transport of goods and repatriation of nationals.
President Ramaphosa said the decision was based on wide consultations with various stakeholders across the country and guided by advice from the World Health Organisation and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The stakeholders "are all united in their insistence that our central goal must be to save lives and protect livelihoods," Mr Ramaphosa said.
South Africa enforced a level-five lockdown on March 27 and eased it to level four on May 1, allowing certain businesses to reopen and limited movement of people.
"While the nationwide lockdown has been effective, it cannot be sustained indefinitely," he said.
Even as the country moves to alert level three, it is important that South Africans should be aware that there are a few parts of the country where the disease is concentrated and infections continue to rise, the president said.
He emphasised that the easing of some restrictions does not mean that the threat posed by the coronavirus has passed or that the fight against the disease is over.
In fact, the risk of a massive increase in infections is now greater than it has been since the start of the outbreak in the country, warned the president.
By Sunday, South Africa has recorded 22,583 confirmed Covid-19 cases, up by 1,240 from Saturday, the highest daily surge since March 5 when the country reported its first case.
The national death toll stood at 429, with 22 reported in the past 24 hours.