Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Pretoria: Sit-down restaurants, casinos and accredited accommodation will soon open to the public — under stringent conditions — after being closed for over 80 days since the lockdown was announced in March.

Personal care services, including salons and personal beauty services, will also be permitted to offer their services, while sports lovers will soon be able to play contactless games, with some contact sport to be allowed with defined restrictions.

Addressing the nation in a live televised broadcast on Wednesday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa said many industries have been affected in the country and unable to earn a living.

“There are businesses that haven’t earned an income or revenue, and individuals who haven’t earned a salary for over 80 days, even with the measures we put in place to support companies, workers and poor households as part of the R500 billion relief package that we announced,” the President said.

When President Ramaphosa announced in May that the country would be moving to alert level 3 from 1 June, he said government would give consideration to re-opening other sectors of the economy, if the necessary safety precautions were put in place and maintained.

“Therefore, following discussions with industry representatives on stringent prevention protocols, and after advice from scientists and consultation with Premiers, Cabinet has decided to ease restrictions on certain other economic activities,” the President said on Wednesday.

Industries due to reopen soon

  • Restaurants for ‘sit-down’ meals.
  • Accredited and licensed accommodation, except home-sharing accommodation like Airbnb.
  • Conferences and meetings for business purposes and in line with restrictions on public gatherings.
  • Cinemas and theatres, to be aligned to limitations on the gathering of people.
    Casinos.
  • Personal care services, including hairdressers and beauty services.
  • Non-contact sports such as golf, tennis, cricket and others.
  • Contact sports will be allowed only for training and modified activities with restricted use of facilities.

However, these businesses need to adhere to strict safety requirements, which need to be put in place before they can reopen.

Detailed measures and the date from which these activities will be permitted will be announced in due course.

“We have taken this decision with due care and seriousness, appreciating the risks associated with each activity and the measures needed to manage those risks,” said the President.

While some of these industries may have suffered a huge blow, the First Citizen said these businesses employed over 500 000 people before the lockdown.

Therefore, he said, Cabinet thought very hard about the people and those who depend on them for their livelihoods.

Meanwhile, he said, government continues to balance the superseding objective of saving lives, while preserving livelihoods.

President Ramaphosa said many other countries are in the same boat during this global pandemic and are resolving similar dilemmas. “We are therefore working closely with international agencies and other countries in responding to Coronavirus.”

Infections increase, breakthrough drug offers hope

South Africa continues to fight to flatten the curve, despite the upsurge of COVID-19 cases.

The death toll now stands at 1 674 people, while there are 80 412 confirmed Coronavirus cases in SA since the outbreak. Of these, 44 331 people – or around 55% – have recovered.

“That means there are currently 34 407 active cases in the country. Yet, as we know, the cost in human lives could have been far higher,” President Ramaphosa said.

He said he was heartened by news of a breakthrough in the treatment of COVID-19, led by the University of Oxford in Britain.

The study found that the drug, dexamethasone, which is also manufactured here in South Africa, reduced deaths among patients on ventilation by a third.

“The Department of Health and the Ministerial Advisory Committee has recommended that dexamethasone can be considered for use on patients on ventilators and oxygen supply,” President Ramaphosa said.

Government believes that this will improve the management of the disease among those who are most severely affected.

The President said he is pleased that government has managed to delay the spread of the virus.

“One of the ways of measuring the rate of transmission is what is called ‘doubling time’,” he explained, adding that this is the number of days it takes for the total number of cases to double.

In the three weeks before the implementation of the nationwide lockdown, the number of infections was doubling every two days, while during level 5, it had increased to 15 days, which meant that it took much longer for the virus to spread.

Meanwhile, the doubling time has been at around 12 days during levels 4 and 3.

“We used the time during the lockdown to prepare and enhance our health system and put in place public health measures to minimise infections,” the President said.

Government has also been strengthening the health system, which includes establishing over 100 quarantine centres, increasing the number of intensive care units and beds in field hospitals, and identifying additional health personnel.

“Even after 100 days, we are still near the beginning of this epidemic and it will remain with us for many more months, possibly years,” President Ramaphosa said.

Over the last few weeks, the number of infections has been rising rapidly, while the Western Cape remains the epicentre, with over 60% of the cases.

“Nearly a third of all confirmed cases have been recorded in the last week alone and more than half of all confirmed cases have been recorded over the last two weeks.”

The President said as the country gradually opens up, resuming more activities, the risk of infection inevitably increases.

“Yet, even though the risk of infection is greater, it is by no means inevitable.

“Through our behaviour as individuals, we can reduce the likelihood that we will get infected or infect others. It is through our personal and collective actions that we can continue to delay the rate of infection across society.” he said.

He has urged the nation to continue to wear cloth masks or similar piece of clothing that covers both nose and mouth at all times when in public to reduce the rate of transmission of the virus.