President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday night announced the country was moving to Covid-19 alert level 1, which means, among other things, that previously prohibited gatherings are now allowed and curfew is now from midnight to 4am.
Ramaphosa said the decision, taken by cabinet earlier in the day, came because the country has seen a significant decline in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks.
Below is the president’s speech. It has not been edited.
Fellow South Africans,
This coming Friday will mark exactly one year since the first case of coronavirus was reported in South Africa. Since then, more than one-and-a-half million people in South Africa have been infected and nearly 50,000 people have been reported to have died from the disease.
So much has changed in our country and in our lives. But the spirit of our people has not changed. You have endured the greatest hardships, but you have remained resolute, united and hopeful.
Now, a year after the virus first reached our shores, we have a clear path towards containing infections and, ultimately, overcoming the disease.
Within less than a year the global scientific community has developed, tested and produced several vaccines that are safe and effective against the disease. South Africa’s scientists and research institutions have made an important contribution to these efforts and have contributed to global knowledge about the disease, including on the emergence of new variants.
We have long held the view that a vaccine would be our most decisive measure to combat Covid-19, and to that extent set up processes at a continental and national level to prepare for the availability of an effective vaccine.
Like many countries, we have now started our vaccination programme.
In the 10 days since we launched our coronavirus vaccination programme, more than 67,000 health workers have been vaccinated.
President Cyril Ramaphosa
In the 10 days since we launched our coronavirus vaccination programme, more than 67,000 health workers, who are on the front line of our fight against Covid-19, have been vaccinated.
A new batch of 80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrived in the country yesterday and we are steadily increasing the number of doses administered each day.
The start of our vaccination campaign has gone extremely well.
It has shown what we can achieve when we work together as government, the scientific community and the private sector.
All provinces have established vaccination sites and have put in place plans for the expansion of the programme as it gains momentum.
The number of sites that will be available for vaccination will be expanded next week from 17 sites to 49 sites. Of the 49 sites, 32 will be at public hospitals and 17 sites in private hospitals. This includes sites in rural areas to improve access to rural health-care workers.
Once the vaccination of health-care workers has been completed, we will begin with phase two of the vaccine rollout in late April or early May. Phase two will include the elderly, essential workers, persons living or working in institutional settings and those with comorbidities. For this phase, we will be activating many more sites for vaccination in the public and private health-care sector so that we can reach as many people in the shortest possible time.
We have recently signed an agreement with Johnson & Johnson to secure 11 million doses. Of these doses, 2.8 million doses will be delivered in the second quarter and the rest spread throughout the year.
We have also secured 20 million doses from Pfizer, which will be delivered from the second quarter.
Additionally, we have secured 12 million vaccine doses from the Covax facility and are in the process of finalising our dose allocation from the African Union.
We are in constant contact with various other vaccine manufacturers to ensure that we have the necessary quantities of vaccines when we need them
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday night assured South Africans that his government would ensure there were sufficient vaccines for the country.
13 hours ago
Fellow South Africans, when I last addressed the nation, at the beginning of this month, the country had passed the peak of the second wave of coronavirus infections. Driven by a new variant of the virus, the second wave was far more devastating and caused greater loss of life than the first wave.
The country has now clearly emerged from the second wave. New infections, admissions to hospital and deaths have fallen significantly and continue to decline steadily.
In the week that has just passed, the country recorded just under 10,000 new infections. A month ago, in the last week of January, the country recorded over 40,000 new cases. And a month before that, in the last week of December, the country recorded close to 90,000 new cases.
This dramatic decline in cases over eight weeks is due to a combination of the public health measures introduced, changes in behaviour and accumulating immunity in those who became infected in our communities. We were able to emerge from the second wave because most people adhered to the tighter restrictions and observed the basic health protocols, including wearing masks in public and social distancing.
The measures we had to put in place in December were necessary to contain infections and prevent our health facilities from being overwhelmed. They were necessary to save lives. We had to undertake these measures knowing that they placed restrictions on the daily lives of everyone in this country. They caused great inconvenience to many. And while we made every effort to keep the economy open, we also knew that there were parts of the economy that would be affected and that wouldn’t be able to operate fully.
Our approach has always been that such restrictions should not remain in place longer than is absolutely necessary to contain the disease.
Due to the decline in infections, the country can now ease some of the restrictions on movement and activity. Once again, we do so cautiously. Even after a sustained period of relatively low transmission, we have seen how the number of new infections can rise rapidly and without warning.
Based on an assessment of the current state of the pandemic in the country, cabinet decided earlier today to move the country from coronavirus alert level 3 to alert level 1. The new alert level will come into effect later this evening, once the regulations have been gazetted.
This will mean that:
- The hours of the curfew will now be from 12 midnight to 4am.
- Gatherings will be permitted, subject to limitations on size, adherence to social distancing and other health protocols. These include religious, social, political and cultural gatherings. The maximum number of people allowed at any gathering is 100 people indoors or 250 people outdoors. 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. Night vigils or other gatherings before or after funerals are still not permitted.
- Nightclubs will remain closed.
- The sale of alcohol will be permitted, according to normal licence provisions. However, no alcohol may be sold during the hours of curfew.
- The wearing of masks in public places is still mandatory and failure to wear a mask when required remains a criminal offence.
- The 33 land border posts that have been closed throughout this period will remain closed, while the other 20 will remain open.
- Only five airports will be open for international travel with standard infection control measures. These are OR Tambo, Cape Town, King Shaka, Kruger Mpumalanga and Lanseria airports.