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Coronavirus: South Africa to rev economy by easing lockdown

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Corona Chronicles: 10 May – 15 May

By Xolisa Phillip, in Johannesburg
Posted on Thursday, 14 May 2020 11:42

Virus Outbreak South Africa
People wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus, queue to walk through a disinfecting spray booths aimed to combat the spread of COVID-19, before doing shopping at Alexandra township in Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Freedom beckons for parts of South Africa in the coming weeks, when the promise of lockdown restrictions being eased awaits areas least affected by COVID-19.   

President Cyril Ramaphosa stepped up to the podium again late on Wednesday to give direction about the government’s next steps in South Africa’s seven-week lockdown.

LISTEN Coronavirus: Easing the lockdown – Johannesburg, Nairobi and Lagos

“We will … begin a process of consultation with relevant stakeholders on a proposal that by the end of May, most of the country be placed on alert level 3, but that those parts of the country with the highest rates of infection remain on level 4,” Ramaphosa told the nation.   

  • So far, South Africa has recorded 12,074 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,745 recoveries from the virus. However, the death toll has risen to 219.
  • The level of confirmed infections is around 181 people per million of the population.
  • The government’s tracking system shows that infections are “mostly concentrated in a few metropolitan municipalities and districts in the country.”

The people must earn

Ramaphosa acknowledged in his late-night address that the coronavirus is “taking a heavy toll not only on the health of our people, but also on our people’s ability to earn a living, to feed themselves, to learn and to enjoy basic freedoms we take for granted.”

“We are now preparing for a further easing of the lockdown and a gradual opening of the economy,” he said.

The government intends to increase economic activity gradually while simultaneously managing the risks posed by COVID-19 to public health.

The caveat is that “some areas of the country may be designated at a particular alert level, while others may be designated at other levels.”

READ MORE Coronavirus: South Africa to ease lockdown to level 4 as of 1 May says Ramaphosa

Level 5 is a state of total lockdown, while level 4 permits restricted economic economy but retains most of the provisions under level 5. Levels 3 to 1 give South Africans greater flexibility and access to more economic activity.

From coast to coast

The Western Cape (6,713), Gauteng (2,074), the Eastern Cape (1,534) and KwaZulu-Natal (1,413) have the highest rates of infection. Gauteng is the only province among the four listed which is situated inland.

All four provinces are home to the biggest metros in the country.

Inland provinces the Free State (138), Mpumalanga (66), Limpopo (54), the North West (52) and the Northern Cape (30), which are the least densely populated, have the lowest rates of infections in the country.

Western Cape premier (the South African equivalent of a state governor) Alan Winde has entered into self-quarantine after coming into contact with a news cameraman who contracted the coronavirus and died from its complications.

Ramaphosa was due to visit the picturesque coastal province, which is home to tourism haven Cape Town and the small wine-producing town of Stellenbosch. However, the president’s visit was postponed because of Winde’s self-quarantine.

The president and health minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize were due to visit the province to assess its response to the coronavirus outbreak.

READ MORE Coronavirus: South Africa expects economy to tank as it grapples with pandemic

Out of South Africa’s nine provinces, the Western Cape in the only one governed by the official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance. The rest are governed by the African National Congress, which also leads the national government.

The Western Cape has been the site of surfer protests and runners defying social distancing on Cape Town’s popular beachside promenade.

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