JOHANNESBURG – (Eyewitness) Just after the arrival of the first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine, the President of the republic of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on developments in relation to the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
South Africans gathered around their televisions and radios on Monday night with a lot of expectation that restrictions to halt the spread of Covid-19 would be eased – and President Cyril Ramaphosa did not disappoint.
Delivering his address, which was good news to many he said the ‘first good news of the day was the arrival of the vaccines’.
“The second [good news] is that we have recorded our lowest daily increase in infections since the beginning of December last year.”
He said a number of restrictions would be eased, such as amending the curfew period to between 11 pm and 4 am and allowing the resumption of faith-based gatherings, subject to health protocols.
Ramaphosa said public places such as beaches, dams, rivers, parks and public swimming pools would be reopened subject to health protocols.
“Such gatherings may not exceed 50 people for indoor venues and 100 persons for outdoor venues. 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.”
Alcohol sales are now permitted from Monday to Thursday for off-site consumption.
The sale of alcohol by licensed premises – such as restaurants and taverns – for on-site consumption will be permitted throughout the week from 10am to 10pm.
“I want to call on all of us to drink responsibly so that we do not experience a spike in trauma cases or an increase in infections due to reckless behaviour. As we ease restrictions once again, the responsibility on each and every one of us as individuals becomes even greater.”
The address follows meetings in recent days of the national coronavirus command council, the president’s coordinating council and Cabinet.
Earlier, the president led a delegation of officials who received the first one million doses of the coronavirus vaccine from the Serum Institute of India.
The president said the arrival of the one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine brought much-needed hope in the fight against the virus.
“The arrival of these vaccines contains the promise that we can turn the tide on this disease that has caused so much devastation and hardship in our country and across the world.”
He said, as planned, health workers would be first in line to receive the jabs.
“Once we have completed the vaccination of healthcare workers, we will move to phase two of our vaccine strategy, which will include essential workers, people over 60 years, people with co-morbidities as well as those living in nursing homes and hostels.”
Phase 3 will then see the rest of the adult population vaccinated.
“But I want to be clear. Nobody will be forced to take this vaccine. Nobody will be forbidden from travelling, from enrolling at school, or from taking part in any public activity if they have not been vaccinated,” he added.