South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Sunday a series of effective measures as of June 1, including the lifting of the curfew, the reopening of most businesses and the authorization of the sale of alcohol. Secondary schools will also reopen, and universities will be able to accommodate a third of the enrolled students. Public gatherings will however remain prohibited and certain "high risk economic activities" such as restaurants, bars and hair salons will remain closed, said Cyril Ramaphosa in a speech to the nation.
Most businesses will be able to resume their activities by following “strict sanitary measures” and “the rules of social distancing”, which will favor the revival of an economy paralyzed since the beginning of the containment decreed because of the epidemic of new coronavirus . "Alcohol will only be sold for home consumption under strict conditions, on specific days and at certain times," he said, adding that the sale of tobacco would remain prohibited "due to the associated health risks to smoking ”.
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The 57 million South Africans have been living since March 27 under strict confinement intended to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, which to date has infected at least 22,583 people and has killed 429. The ban on the sale of Alcohol, ordered at the start of confinement, was intended to prevent an escalation of violence and to reduce pressure on the emergency services. Police Minister Bheki Cele sparked controversy on Friday, blaming the decline in delinquency during confinement "for the inability to get alcohol . " Bheki Cele also said that nearly a quarter of a million people (230,000) were arrested for violating the rules of confinement, mostly offenses related to the sale of alcohol and tobacco.
The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), considered that these normalization measures came "six weeks too late" and was astonished at the maintenance of the ban on the sale of tobacco "while most smokers have not stopped and buy their cigarettes illegally ” .
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Air traffic remains blocked except for exemptions for certain business trips. The borders remain closed. President Ramaphosa had first eased the containment on May 1, allowing the restart of certain economic sectors. The Head of State spoke of a "differentiated approach" from June 1 in seven places identified as "epidemic foci of the coronavirus", including Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town.
"The list of outbreaks will be updated every two weeks according to the progression of the coronavirus," he said. Cyril Ramaphosa said that about 20,000 beds are being refurbished for patients with Covid-19 and that 27 field hospitals are under construction in the country. Health experts predict that the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in the country will be reached between July and November, which could cause the death of at least 40,000 people.