S.Africa to gradually ‘ease’ virus lockdown from May 1
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by Sofia Christensen
South Africa’s five-week coronavirus lockdown will be slowly eased from next month, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Thursday as he sought a balance between protecting people and letting them “earn a living.”
Ramaphosa rolled out strict confinement measures on March 27, under which people were only allowed to leave their homes for groceries, pharmaceuticals and medical appointments.
Though infections rose to nearly 4,000 cases on Thursday and 75 deaths, the disease’s spread has slowed during an initial three-week lockdown period that was later extended until April 30.
But authorities have struggled to keep people indoors — particularly in overcrowded townships — and many businesses feared they would not be able to recover from a prolonged shutdown.
“We have accordingly decided that beyond Thursday the 30th of April, we should begin a gradual and phased recovery,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address.
“We will implement what we call a risk-adjusted strategy through which we take a deliberate and cautious approach to the easing of current lockdown restrictions.”
A $26 billion relief package was announced earlier this week to stimulate the economy and cushion vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic.
“While a nationwide lockdown is probably the most effective means to contain the spread of the virus, it cannot be sustained indefinitely,” Ramaphosa said, adding that “clear evidence” showed the restrictions had been working.
“Our people need to eat, they need to earn a living. Companies need to produce and trade.”
While South Africans are still encouraged to remain home, some businesses will be able to resume operations “under specific conditions” and in a “phased manner” as of next month.
Borders are to stay shut and a ban on alcohol sales remains in place. (AFP)