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Relief for travellers as South Africa eases lockdown restrictions

Most people are eagerly waiting for president Mnangagwa to make a national address on relaxing lockdown restrictions further following the easing of restrictions in South Africa. South Africa has now moved to level 1 of their lockdown.President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Wednesday evening. Ramaphosa announced South Africa’s move to Alert Level one of the lockdown from midnight Sunday 20 September. He made the announcement after a meeting with the President’s Co-ordinating Council and other stakeholders.This will see larger gatherings being permitted, along with international travel, the sale of alcohol allowed from Monday to Friday, and the curfew shifted to midnight.In his address to the nation, the president said the country had weathered the Covid-19 storm, but he also warned of a potential second wave of the pandemic and asked citizens to continue being vigilant in this regard.“We have withstood the coronavirus storm. Now is the time to move the country and our people to what will become the new normal,” he said.

The president announced that a number of restrictions on social gatherings will be eased, including allowing up to 100 people to attend funerals. Under the previous lockdown regulations, attendance was capped at 50 people.In a boon for the restaurant and entertainment industries, the curfew will also be changed to between midnight and 4 am daily.Alcohol sales will be permitted from Monday to Friday between 9 am and 5 pm.“It is time to return our country to a situation that is more normal, it is time to move to what we call a new normal for as long as Covid is with us,” said the president.Ramaphosa said the decision was made following consultations with provincial and local government representatives as well as experts.He imposed a hard lockdown in March as part of his government’s efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19, which had strict regulations and only allowed for essential services to operate.

With the move to Alert Level 1, restrictions on international travel will gradually and cautiously be eased.“We will be allowing travel into and out of South Africa for business, leisure and other travel with effect from 1 October,” Ramaphosa said.However, travellers will have to provide a certificate of proof that they have tested negative for Covid-19.“South African missions abroad will open for visa applications and all long-term visas will be reinstated,” he said.In recent months, there has been a gradual phasing out of the lockdown, which included regulations being revised as per the government’s risk-adjusted approach to the coronavirus.

Ramaphosa was addressing the nation after he met members of the National Coronavirus. Command Council on Monday and after a special sitting of the President’s Co-ordinating Council, which he co-chairs with Deputy President David Mabuza.Last week, he hinted the move to Level 1 was on the horizon in an engagement with the South African National Editors’ Forum.The PCC is made up of ministers, premiers and leadership of South African Local Government Association (Salga) and National House of Traditional Leaders.For the past six months, South Africa has been declared a disaster state and has been in lockdown since late March. The disaster state was declared in a bid to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Since April, more than 15 640 people have died in Covid-19 related deaths in South Africa, while over 650 000 people have contracted the virus.The hardest hit provinces have been Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.Under lockdown level 1, all sectors will be allowed to trade, Ramaphosa announced, and international air travel will be permitted for the first time since borders were sealed during lockdown level 5.“Social, religious, political and other gatherings will be permitted, as long as the number of people does not exceed 50 percent of the normal capacity of a venue — up to a maximum of 250 people for indoor gatherings and 500 people for outdoor gatherings,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa also said religious gatherings such as mosques, churches and temples, could now accommodate up to 50% capacity. This is a significant increase compared to the 50 person limit that was introduced since level 4.Gyms and theatres would also be allowed up to 50% of their venue capacity.Both business and leisure travel will be allowed from October 1, with some possible restrictions in place for countries with high infection rates — a list is expected to be published in the coming days.“On arrival, travellers will need to present a negative Covid-19 test result, not older than 72 hours from time of departure,” said the president.Travellers will be able to use one land post, which had been operational throughout the lockdown, as well as King Shaka, OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airports.He said travellers, who had not done a test before making their way into the country, will be required to go into mandatory quarantine at their own cost.

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