Thank you for taking the time for us to elaborate on the announcements of the president over the weekend. We have Gazetted the associated regulations. Indeed, as the president said; “It has been an immensely difficult five months, and the pandemic has taken a heavy toll – on the health of our people, on families and communities, on the public health system, on the economy and on people’s everyday lives.”
The pandemic has called on all of us to make individual and collective sacrifices. It is only through united action and the pursuance of a common goal that we can overcome the pandemic. Consequently, we may be called upon to make further sacrifices and act jointly towards a common good.
You will also recall that COVID-19 also arrived at a time when our economy was greatly challenged with pedestrian growth, high unemployment, rampant poverty, high inequality and hunger. The clear majority of our citizens continue to be without basic services such as water, sanitation, roads and adequate housing.
Our health and education systems were also not adequately equipped to deal with the challenges presented by COVID-19. Consequently, we had to mount a response that could adequately respond to the health, social and economic challenges presented by the pandemic. In recognition of our realities, we adopted the Risk-Adjusted Strategy on 21 April. This allowed us to gradually open up the economy, despite the increasing infection numbers, as we walked the tight rope of saving lives and livelihoods.
Regrettably, over 11 thousand have lost their lives to the virus. We take the opportunity to reextend our condolences to their families, friends, colleagues and community members. We also salute the healthcare and frontline workers who have also lost their lives to the virus, may their souls rest in eternal peace.
Ladies and gentlemen, after a rapid rise in infections over the months of June and July, the daily increase in infections recently appears to be stabilising. There is a noted decrease, particularly in the larger provinces of the Western Cape, Gauteng and Eastern Cape. However, KZN still provides some challenges. Over and above the improved national case recovery rate of more than 80%, the case fatality rate has also improved to around 1.6%.
This suggests that the prevention measures that South Africans have implemented are having an effect. This was confirmed by the Minister of Health who informs us that there is now sufficient hospital capacity, including beds, ICU space and ventilators. Consequently, we have called for the temporary suspension of the building of field hospitals and will redirect funding to maintaining and repairing existing health facilities.
As we continue with our fight against the impact of the COVID-19 virus, we aim to limit hardship, and there is no desire to leave stringent prohibitions in place for longer than necessary.
It is for that reason that we have lifted the restrictions on a number of areas, but have maintained the curfew between 10 pm and 4am. Interprovincial travel is now permitted. The sale of tobacco and tobacco products is now permitted. The sale of Alcohol at off sale and retail outlets is permitted, albeit with restrictions, of sale only between Monday and Thursday from 9am to 5pm. Alcohol can also be served by licensed establishments such as restaurants, bars and taverns daily from 06h00 to 22h00. These establishments can only operate with a maximum of 50 patrons so long as the health and hygiene protocols are observed. These include a 1,5 meters distance amongst the patrons, the sanitization of surfaces, the washing of hands and the wearing of masks.
We have also opened up gyms and fitness centers and they are also permitted to conduct business with a maximum of 50 people and subject to strict health and hygiene protocols. Restrictions on beaches have also been lifted subject to COVID-19 prevention protocols and directions to be issued. The resumption of water-based activities and certain categories of tourism activities including boat-based whale watching, scuba diving, shark cage diving, kayaking, river rafting, and speed boat rides, are also opened.
Certain environmental sector activities are opened up including Zoos, Aquaria, animal sanctuaries and rehabilitation centres, subject to strict health and hygiene protocols including sanitisation, wearing of masks and the maintenance of social distancing. To further mitigate the risks the Department of Health is working with the relevant departments and sectors to develop guidelines.
Hospitality and entertainment businesses such as accommodation establishments, tour operators, and casinos can operate at 50% of floor capacity. Theaters and cinemas are now permitted to operate at a maximum of 50 persons subjects to health and hygiene protocols such as mask wearing, social distancing, sanitization and washing of hands.
Social events at places of residence are now permitted. This includes visits to friends and family so long as there are no more than ten visitors and the health protocols of wearing of masks, sanitisation, washing of hands and safe social distance are observed.
Social gatherings such as funerals and weddings are now permitted so long as there are no more than 50 people gathered. We will continue with the restriction of no night vigils.
It is our hope that in undertaking these activities we will maintain the strict protocols of social distancing, wearing of masks, sanitization, and washing of hands. We must therefore exercise more caution and be more vigilant than before. It is our actions now that will determine our future. , When we further open the economy the risks mount and could lead to a resurgence and a second wave.
We are in it for the long haul. Therefore, we must remain vigilant and not tire. As once said by former president Mbeki “those who complete the course will do so only because they do not, as fatigue sets in, convince themselves that the road ahead is still too long, the inclines too steep, the loneliness impossible to bear and the prize itself of doubtful value.”
We must, therefore, protect each other because we are not safe until we are all safe. As we undertake social visits let’s keep our masks on, lets wash our hands and maintain a safe social distance.
Mase niphuzile buyelani emakhaya, but do not get behind the wheel. Let us drink responsibly and protect all our people especially women and children. Let’s not abuse women and children and pick fights.
We would not like to return to higher levels of restrictions so we must all act responsibly. When we smoke cigarettes let us not share them as the virus moves with people, it has no legs.
Given the high levels of risk associated with international travel, we will continue with such restrictions. Having seen how young people have carried the virus to the elderly from night clubs we will continue with closing them. To limit risk we have also implemented restrictions of spectators at sporting events. No spectators are allowed. Cruise ships for leisure are also not allowed.
We also alluded to the fact that all our efforts are directed at the delicate balance of saving lives and livelihoods. To which end we said the strategy was a dynamic roadmap that would strive to maintain relevance and advance our fight to protect people and secure their livelihoods.
We wish to thank all South Africans, individuals, traditional leaders, NGOs workers, women’s organisations, youth organisations for their support and contribution in our fight against COVID-19.
Even though we have eased restrictions the risk is also increasing for it is people who move the virus. We must with vigilance to defeat the virus together for we must soldier on and work together. Indeed it’s all in our hands.
I thank you