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Lockdown eased in South Africa

On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced several restrictions eased under adjusted Level 3 of the lockdown.

It remains compulsory for every person to wear a mask in a public space, and the new curfew hours are from 11 pm to 4 am.

South Africans started flocking to beaches on Tuesday morning after Ramaphosa's announcement that beaches will be reopened subject to social distancing and health protocols.

Restrictions on the sale of alcohol have also been eased.

The sale of alcohol by licensed premises for off-site consumption will be permitted from Mondays to Thursdays from 10 am to 6 pm.

The Beer Association of South Africa says lifting the alcohol ban is too little, too late for small businesses.

It says many have had to shut down due to the restrictions.

The association says it will, however, look at ways to salvage businesses.

Faith-based gatherings will be permitted, subject to health protocols.

Such gatherings may not exceed 50 people for indoor venues and 100 persons for outdoor venues.

Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50 percent of the venue's capacity may be used.

Gillian Saunders from the Tourism Business Council said the restrictions had an impact on the tourism season.

However, Ramaphosa said some restrictions would remain, including the ban on social gatherings and political events. Sports enthusiasts will also have to wait a bit longer to watch their favorite teams battle it out at stadiums, as this remains prohibited.

The maximum number of 50 attended at funerals — long considered super-spreader events — remains in place, as well as the compulsory wearing of masks in public spaces.

“Even as we roll out the vaccination program throughout the year and as we steadily work to reduce the number of new infections, we will need to continue to observe careful precautions to reduce transmission,” Ramaphosa said. “This is particularly important as the new variant of the virus — 501Y.v2 — is now widespread across the country.”

Ramaphosa urged citizens to avoid crowded spaces and spending time in closed and unventilated spaces as the risk of getting infected was higher in such spaces. As such, people will still have to maintain a 1.5-meter distance when in public spaces, and employers have been urged to allow staff to continue working from home.

Mask-wearing also remained compulsory.

Ramaphosa said the number of new Covid-19 cases in SA had been consistently on the decline, along with the number of hospital admissions. It was for this reason that the decision was taken to ease some restrictions.

However, he closed his address with a warning that the country couldn't become complacent, even though the second Covid-19 wave peak has now passed.

With the first batch of vaccines arriving in SA on Monday, Ramaphosa said it was possible to “imagine a world where the virus has been brought under control.”

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