President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that national coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions will be eased from Sunday, September 20, as the country enters its level one of its five-stage lockdown. The eased restrictions mean that social, religious, and political gatherings of up to 250 people indoors and 500 outdoors will be allowed, as long as venues remain below 50 percent capacity. Entertainment, sports, and recreational facilities will also be allowed to reopen at half capacity.
The national overnight curfew will also be pushed back by two hours to 00:00 - 04:00 (local time) from the previous start time of 22:00, whilst alcohol sales from licensed vendors will also be allowed between 09:00 and 17:00 on Fridays, having previously only been permitted from Monday to Thursday. However, the use of face masks remains mandatory in public places and members of the public are still required to comply with social distancing measures.
As well as the easing of domestic restrictions, Ramaphosa also announced the resumption of international travel to the country from October 1. The government had placed tight restrictions on international flights since March, banning most commercial flights. Any travellers entering the country from October 1 will be required to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival in the country. Those unable to provide a certified test result, or displaying COVID-19 symptoms, will be required to quarantine at their own expense until a test result is received.
South Africa's National State of Disaster was previously extended on September 11 until October 15.
As of Thursday, September 17, authorities have reported 653,444 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 15,705 associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected in 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 (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
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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