SA’s fight against Covid-19 passed a major milestone on Saturday when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would enter Alert Level 2 from August 17.
“The move to Level 2 means we can remove nearly all of the restrictions on the resumption of economic activity across most industries,” Ramaphosa said.
Two of the biggest changes were the lifting of the much-hated bans on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products.
“Alcohol will be permitted for outside consumption in licenced establishments only up to 10pm.
“Liquor outlets will be allowed to sell alcohol for off-site consumption from Monday to Thursday during the hours of 9am and 5pm only,” Ramaphosa said.
While the lockdown overall has been unpopular from the start, the ban on tobacco and alcohol sales received some of the loudest criticism from businesses and citizens.
The bans were cited as costing the country millions in lost tax revenue and industry giants British American Tobacco (BAT) were prepared to take the government to court to get the tobacco ban lifted.
“Restaurants, bars and taverns will be permitted to operate according to approved protocols as to times of operation and numbers of people,” Ramaphosa said.
In addition, accommodation, hospitality venues and tours will be permitted to operate provided they stick to necessary health and safety protocols.
However, there are some restrictions which will remain in place.
International travel is still cancelled, as are any gatherings of more than 50 people.
The curfew from 9pm to 4am is also still in place.
While Covid-19 is still a threat, Ramaphosa said that the country had made great strides in combatting the pandemic.
“Over the last three weeks, the number of new confirmed cases has dropped from a peak of more than 12,000 a day to an average of about 5,000 a day.
“The recovery rate from coronavirus has risen from 48% at the time of my last address to the nation (July 12) and now stands at an incredible 80%,” he said.
According to Ramaphosa, the number of active Covid-19 cases throughout SA were beginning to decline.
However, he urged citizens to not grow complacent.
“As we continue to ease restrictions, the risk of infections does not diminish; in fact, the risk becomes even greater as more people return to work, as they move about and as there are more opportunities for people to interact with each other.
“Even the slightest lapse in our alertness at this moment could lead to a resurgence of infections on a scale greater than what we have seen so far,” he said.
He asked citizens to continue following necessary health protocols such as social distancing, wearing masks and remaining at home wherever possible.