President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday warned against complacency as the country is about to further ease the COVID-19 lockdown.
The further easing of restrictions “is a sign of the progress we are making in reducing new infections and demand on our health facilities,” Ramaphosa said in his weekly presidential address.
It is too soon to celebrate as the country is still very much in the middle of a deadly pandemic that has taken over 11,000 lives and infected more than half a million confirmed people, the fifth highest number of infections in the world, the president said.”And there is always a chance of a resurgence of the disease,” he said.
On Saturday, Ramaphosa announced that the country will move from alert level three to level two, with effect from midnight on Monday.
Under level two, the country can remove nearly all of the restrictions on the resumption of economic activity across most industries.
The relaxation of restrictions followed the tapering off of the pandemic in recent days.Over the last three weeks, the number of new confirmed cases has dropped from a peak of over 12,000 a day to an average over the past week of around 5,000 a day, according to official figures.
The virus appears to have peaked in several provinces, including Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and possibly in KwaZulu-Natal.
In his Monday address, Ramaphosa reminded South Africans of resurgence of the pandemic in New Zealand and several parts of Europe following the relaxation of restrictions.
“It is a wake-up call to any among us who may harbor illusions that we are even close to seeing the end of this grave public health emergency,” he said.
As the country moves to alert level two, many restrictions on social and economic activity have been lifted, thus increasing the risk of transmission, he said. “The greatest threat to the health of nation right now is complacency,” Ramaphosa stressed.
Many people who have the coronavirus do not have symptoms and may not even know they are infected, he said.”As we return to economic activity across almost all industries, and work to repair the damage done, we have a responsibility to not let our guard down as individuals, employers, communities, families, professionals, workers and citizens,” he said.
The move to alert level two of the lockdown is not a “free for all,” Ramaphosa said, adding that the rules on social distancing, mask wearing, social gatherings and international travel remain.