President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced several changes to the current lockdown measures for South Africa as the country moves towards lifting the national state of disaster.
In a national address on Tuesday evening (22 March), Ramaphosa said the country is now at a ‘watershed moment’ as it enters the next phase of managing the pandemic.
He noted that fewer South Africans are getting severely ill, with an expected 80% of the population having some form of immunity due to a combination of vaccinations and previous infection.
Ramaphosa said the government will lift the national state of disaster once the comment period around the long-term Covid regulations is finalised.
However, he stressed that the eventual lifting of the state of disaster does not mean the end of the pandemic but rather signifies a change in the way Covid will be managed by the government.
Based on scientific advice and the experiences of other countries, Ramaphosa said the following restrictions will be eased as part of adjusted level 1:
- Both indoor and outdoor gatherings are permitted at up to 50% of capacity provided proof of vaccination or a Covid test of not older than 72 hours is shown.
- For gatherings where no valid vaccine certificates are required, artificial limits of 1,000 and 2,000 people will apply for indoor and outdoor gatherings, respectively.
- The maximum number of people permitted at a funeral is now up to 200, from 100 previously. Night vigils and after-funeral parties are still not permitted.
- It is mandatory to wear a mask when in a public indoor space. However, masks will no longer be required when people are outdoors.
- The new social distancing limit is 1 metre in all settings except in schools.
- Travellers entering South Africa will need to present negative PCR tests not older than 72 hours in the event they do not have a vaccination certificate.
These measures will take effect from Wednesday (23 March) once the new changes are gazetted.
These changes are largely in line with proposed regulations published by the Department of Health on 16 March for public comment. The planned regulations fall under the National Health Act and will effectively act as a long-term replacement to South Africa’s state of disaster Covid regulations.
This is part of the government’s transition plans from the current state of disaster which has been in effect for over two years, the department said in an accompanying statement.
The new regulations will also act as a new instrument for the government to manage the current Covid pandemic and future pandemics.