S. A eases restrictions as COVID-19 cases rise

In the face of a deteriorating economic situation, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has opted to ease lockdown restrictions further even though coronavirus cases are beginning to rise rapidly.

In the past week alone, the number has increased by 37 per cent.

But in a frank address to the nation, the president highlighted the need to preserve peoples’ livelihoods.

As a result, he said that parts of the leisure industry will reopen soon.

At the end of March, the country entered into one of the strictest lockdown regimes in the world, almost all movement outside was restricted and the sale of cigarettes and alcohol was banned.

Those measures have been credited with slowing the initial spread of COVID-19 and, as Mr Ramaphosa said, gave the health sector valuable time to prepare for an influx of patients.

But, he warned “this task is far from complete. Even after 100 days, we are still near the beginning of this epidemic and it will remain with us for many more months, possibly years”.

Nevertheless, sit-down restaurants, casinos, hotels and hair-dressers, among other businesses, will now be able to reopen, which could see half a million people going back to work. But no date was set for when the change will happen.

At the beginning of the month, the key mining sector as well as manufacturing businesses were allowed to return to normal production levels. People were also allowed outside and the ban on the sale of alcohol was lifted.

South Africa’s economy has taken a massive knock as a result of months of lockdown and the further easing of restrictions will be welcome relief to struggling small business owners, BBC business reporter Vumani Mkhize says.

The country has recorded more than 80,000 cases of coronavirus and there have been 1,674 deaths.

But research carried out by the BBC suggests that between March 25, just before the first death from coronavirus was recorded, to June 2,  the number of deaths in South Africa has actually been 9 per cent lower than average from other years, with about 7,400 fewer people dying than usual.

This is different to most other countries.

With people confined to their homes, South Africa saw fewer reported deaths from common incidents such as traffic accidents. -Xinhua

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