South Africa to begin phased relaxation of lockdown on May 1

JOHANNESBURG, April 24 ------ South Africa, with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Africa, will start a phased easing of its strict lockdown measures on May 1, although its numbers of the disease continue to rise. President Cyril Ramaphosa said Thursday night that the country will begin a gradual reduction of restrictions, based on the number of cases that are discovered by widespread testing. Fireworks, cheers and the blowing of vuvuzela horns greeted the news across Johannesburg, especially the highrise Hillbrow district. The reduction of restrictions will allow many industries and businesses to reopen under strict precautions, including having as many employees as possible work from home, said the president. All people will should wear face masks to combat the spread of the virus, said Ramaphosa, who produced a colorful fabric mask and put it on when he finished his nationally broadcast address. “We will implement a risk-adjusted strategy through which we take a deliberate and cautious approach to the easing of current lockdown restrictions,” said Ramaphosa. All businesses permitted to resume operations must do so in a phased manner, first preparing the workplace for a return to operations, followed by the return of the workforce in batches of no more than one-third, he said. However, most restrictions aimed at containing the virus and limiting transmissions will remain in place. These include the ban on local and international travel, except for the repatriation of South Africans who are still stuck abroad. The country’s borders will remain closed and large gatherings including sports events and church services remain banned. Restaurants, taverns and bars will remain closed but the sale of cigarettes will be allowed. Ramaphosa did not say anything about the sale of alcohol, which has been banned since the lockdown began on March 27. Other relaxations include permission for people to exercise outdoors. The easing will be done in five phases, determined by the number of cases from community testing and the numbers of people hospitalized, said the president. “We cannot take action today that we will deeply regret tomorrow. We must avoid a rushed reopening that could risk a spread, which would need to be followed by another hard lockdown, as has happened in other countries,” he said. Source: