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South Africa eases restrictions as Covid-19 cases decline

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Peter Nicholls/WPA Rota


South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa said an address to the nation on Sunday the country had largely passed its peak of infections attributed to the third wave of Covid-19 that has been raging in the country since last May.

As a result, restrictions will be eased. The ban on alcohol sale has been lifted, non-essential establishments like restaurants are set to reopen and inter-provincial travel for leisure will resume. Schools have fully reopened, and social and religious gatherings are again allowed for a maximum of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

The nighttime curfew has been reduced to 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Nevertheless he warned that people should continue to make efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

"The coronavirus pandemic is the greatest threat to the lives and health of our people, as well as to the recovery and transformation of our economy. Accordingly, we need to continue to do everything in our means to contain the spread of the virus,"Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa.

"The latest figures suggest that we have largely passed the peak of the third wave of infections," he added.

This easing of restrictions comes after the average daily number of new confirmed cases over the last week was found to be around 12,000, a 20% drop from the previous week.

Vaccines for Africa, by Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa also added that plans to start manufacturing vaccines in Africa, and for Africa, were gathering pace. The Aspen Pharmacare drugs company to start producing doses for the continent by Autumn.

"Aspen, which is based in Gqeberha, will from October be manufacturing vaccine solely for the African continent, our own country and the African continent. A few weeks ago, the World Health Organization chose South Africa as a hub for the manufacture of vaccines going forward. A few days ago, Biovac Institute in Cape Town was appointed to manufacture the Pfizer by BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for distribution within our continent," the South African President detailled in his address.

To accelerate its mass vaccination campaign, South Africa will start giving shots on weekends and will make them available to younger residents ages 18 and above starting September 1. Currently, vaccines are limited to people 35 and up.

  1. ``In the coming weeks, we will substantially increase the rate of vaccination,'' Ramaphosa said.

South Africa, which has a population of 60 million, has administered over 6.3 million vaccine doses. The rate of inoculations needs to increase for the country to reach its target of having 67% of the population fully vaccinated by February. 

Fighting the aftermath of the KZN and GT riots

The South African president concluded his adress by saying investigations into the recent violence that killed over 300 people were still ongoing.

Ramaphosa announced the reinstatement of a monthly relief grant of 350 rand ($23.50) for unemployed South Africans until next March. 

An estimated 2 million jobs have been lost since last year due to the pandemic, according to the country's official statistics. 

A situation made worse for many by the unrest and violence that took place in the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

Ramaphosa said his government would seek restitution for businesses that suffered more than 20 billion rand ($1.35 billion) in damage and also would assist poor South Africans.

The state-owned insurance company, SASRIA, will expedite claims by insured businesses for riot-related damage, and the government plans to announce support measures for smaller, uninsured businesses, Ramaphosa said.

"I want to make it clear that law and order will be maintained,`` the president said. ``There will be further arrests, particularly of those who conceptualized, planned, and executed these actions that have led to so much destruction and loss of life.''