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South Africa eases up restrictions after low COVID cases

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South Africa

South Africa announced on Saturday it will move to alert level 2 after a drop in the rate of new confirmed coronavirus cases.

In an address to the nation President Cyril Ramaphosa said the number of new confirmed cases had dropped over the past three weeks from a peak of over 12,000 a day to an average of around 5,000 a day over the past week.

He said cabinet had now decided to place the country into alert level two which will come into affect from midnight on Monday,

The loosening of the lockdown will remove nearly all restrictions on economic activity, including the hospitality industry, and allow inter-provincial travel. International travel restrictions will still be in place and gatherings of more than 50 people are still banned.

A month-long ban on cigarette sales will also be lifted and limited alcohol sales will be allowed.

"Alert level two in terms of our risk adjusted strategy in dealing with the pandemic means that there is moderate COVID-19 spread of the virus with a relatively high health system readiness," Ramaphosa said.

South Africa has the world’s fifth-largest virus caseload with more than 583,000.

The health ministry announced on Saturday a total of more than 11,600 confirmed deaths.