South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday, May 24, that the current lockdown measures which were introduced due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic will be eased from level four to level three of a five-level system from Monday, June 1. With the relaxation of lockdown restrictions, the current nighttime curfew, which is in place between 20:00 to 05:00 (local time), will be lifted and schools will reopen gradually with voluntary attendance. Retail, wholesale, and spaza shops will be allowed to reopen, and the sale of alcohol will be permitted for home consumption only. Additionally, limitations on outdoor exercise will be lifted and all construction work will be allowed to resume. Nevertheless, social gatherings, inter-provincial travel, and the sale of tobacco products remain prohibited, and the wearing of face masks in public is compulsory. Ramaphosa warned that spikes of COVID-19 infections in hotspots, such as Johannesburg and Cape Town, could lead to a return to stricter lockdown measures.
As of May 24, authorities have charged around 230,000 people with offenses related to the contravention of lockdown measures, which were introduced on Thursday, March 26. The number of those charged has almost doubled since the county moved into Level 4 of the lockdown on Friday, May 1. Authorities stated that the highest number of arrests mirrored the provincial infection statistics, with the Western Cape recording the highest number of confirmed cases and arrests, followed by the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Gauteng. Those arrested have either been issued with fines or released with a warning, although some were released on bail.
Private vehicles are limited to three occupants and taxis must operate below 70 percent capacity. Restaurants are only allowed to provide delivery services. The agricultural sector is permitted to resume full operations, and mining has partially resumed. Businesses resuming operations must comply with certain health regulations, such as set workforce capacities, providing hand sanitizers, and ensuring social distance is maintained.
International travel is suspended indefinitely, citizens are only allowed to leave their homes for essential needs, and social distancing orders will need to be respected. Gyms, hairdressers, and other businesses remain closed.
As of Monday, May 25, authorities have confirmed 22,583 cases of COVID-19 and 429 associated deaths in South Africa. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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