Following meetings of the National Coronavirus Command Council and the President’s Coordinating Council, the SA Cabinet has – to the joy of many South Africans – moved the country from Adjusted Alert Level 2 to Adjusted Alert Level 1 from midnight tonight (Thurs/Fri).
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the news during a ‘family meeting’ on Thursday evening when he addressed the nation live on television.
The President said that a few days ago, the South African COVID-19 Modelling Consortium confirmed that South Africa has emerged from a third wave of COVID-19 infections.
“In the last seven days, the average number of new cases was at around 1 800 a day. There are also sustained decreases in COVID-19 hospitalisations and deaths in all provinces. This is news that is welcome to all of us,” President Ramaphosa said.
The President said the current trends in the progression of the pandemic mean that a number of the restrictions in place can be eased, as per the recommendations of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19.
The following measures will apply as part of adjusted Alert Level 1:
- The hours of the curfew will change, from 12 midnight to 4 am.
- Non-essential establishments like restaurants, bars and fitness centres will need to close by 11 pm to allow their employees and patrons to travel home before the start of the curfew.
- The maximum number of people permitted to gather indoors will increase from 250 to 750, and the maximum number of people permitted to gather outdoors will increase from 500 to 2 000.
- Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used. This includes religious services, political events and social gatherings, as well as restaurants, bars, taverns and similar places.
- The maximum number of people permitted at a funeral will increase from 50 to 100. As before, night vigils, after-funeral gatherings and ‘after-tears’ gatherings are not allowed.
- The sale of alcohol – for both off-site and on-site consumption – will be permitted, according to normal licence provisions. However, no alcohol may be sold after 11 pm.
- The wearing of masks in public places is still mandatory, and failure to wear a mask when required remains a criminal offence.
Vooma Vaccination Weekend
In efforts to ramp up the vaccination rollout in South Africa, government has decided to upscale the vaccination campaign by launching the Vooma Vaccination Weekends campaign from Friday.
The President acknowledged that while the country has made important progress, and secured sufficient vaccine doses for the target population, the vaccination programme uptake is still too slow.
The Vooma Vaccination Weekends campaign will be a countrywide drive to encourage people to get vaccinated.
“We know that getting to a vaccination site during weekdays can be difficult for many people, especially those who work, who have to commute long distances, or have family responsibilities.
“Those who might not be able to get the vaccine during the week should take up this opportunity,” the President said.
From Friday to Saturday, vaccination sites around the country will stay open at convenient hours to reach over half a million people.
The Department of Health has identified priority districts in each province based on the number of unvaccinated people and the current vaccination coverage in each district. This will be the first Vooma Vaccination Weekend in a series of outreach programmes.
“Leaders from across the political spectrum, civil society, religious leaders, traditional leaders, labour and business will mobilise communities to stay safe by being vaccinated. The Deputy President and I, as well as Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Premiers, MECs, Mayors and Councillors, will also be out in communities on Friday and Saturday to encourage citizens to get vaccinated,” President Ramaphosa said.
He reminded the country that vaccination is free to everyone living in South Africa, whether they are a citizen or from another country.
Those who want to get vaccinated can go to a government or a private health facility that offers vaccination, even if they don’t have medical aid. People are allowed to walk into their nearest vaccination site with their ID or other proof of identity and be registered on the spot.
President Ramaphosa said the Vooma Vaccination Weekends are an opportunity to acknowledge the immense contribution made by health workers, who have cared for those affected by COVID-19.
The President called on all businesses to facilitate the vaccination of their workers and encourage their workers to get vaccinated.
He said the involvement of all sectors of society in the national effort will become all the more critical in the run-up to the local government elections in November.
To date, South Africa has administered over 17 million vaccine doses. Over 8.6 million people are fully vaccinated, which is more than one-fifth of the adult population.
Significantly, 60% of South Africans over the age of 60, and 50% of people between the ages of 50 and 59, have now received at least one vaccine dose.
“These numbers give us confidence and hope. We have set ourselves the target of vaccinating 70% of the adult population in South Africa by the end of the year.
“If we reach this target, the Department of Health estimates that we could save up to 20 000 lives. That represents 20 000 people – mothers, fathers, sons and daughters – whose death can be prevented if the majority of us choose to get vaccinated,” the President said.
He emphasised that to reach the national goal, South Africa needs to administer an additional 16 million vaccine doses this year, which amounts to around 250 000 first dose vaccinations every single workday of every week until mid-December.
President Ramaphosa said the country’s priority is economic recovery to make room for job creation and help businesses hard hit by the pandemic get back on their feet.
“The only way that we can do this is if more South Africans choose to get vaccinated, more quickly.
“If the majority of our population is vaccinated, we can declare South Africa to be a safe destination and welcome tourists back over the summer season.”
The President believes that this is the only way for the country to resume sporting events and concerts, lift restrictions on restaurants and bars, and facilitate the safe return to workplaces, shops and public spaces.
“If we can reach our vaccination targets by the end of this year, we can avoid further restrictions and kick our economic recovery into high gear,” he stressed.