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South Africa will go to Level 1 lockdown with immediate effect, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced.

“The country has now clearly passed the second wave,” Ramaphosa said during his televised national address on Sunday night.

He credited the public health measures and changes in behaviour by the public for the decline in infections.

This means that the hours of curfew change to midnight to 4 am and public gatherings – including social, political and religious – are once again permitted but restricted to 100 people for indoor gatherings and 250 for outdoor events, where the venue allows.

Gathering after funerals, commonly known as “after tears”, is still not permitted, the president said.

Alcohol sales both for on and off-site consumption will be permitted during normal pre-lockdown trading hours, providing that this is outside the curfew hours.

The land borders that have been closed during the lockdown will remain so, and only five airports will be open for international flights.

Ramaphosa warned that the wearing of masks remains compulsory.

The president also gave a nod to the country’s scientific community, which has been on the frontline of the research being conducted.

“South Africa’s scientists and researchers have made an important contribution to the global knowledge of the virus,” Ramaphosa said.

More than 1.5 million people have been infected by COVID-19 and nearly 50 000 have died from complications related to the virus.

South Africa on Saturday received the second consignment of 80 000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines, and to date around 53 000 frontline healthcare workers have already been vaccinated.

However, at least 40 million people will need to be vaccinated before South Africa can hope to achieve herd immunity.

The government has secured 11 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and is in the process of securing its allocation from Covax, Ramaphosa said.

According to Professor Ian Sanne, while both the Pfizer and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been found to be effective against the dominant variant of COVID-19 in South Africa, the logistics involved in storage and transportation of the two varies drastically.

The Pfizer vaccine must be held at between -80ºC and -60ºC, Salle said.

The country has been in lockdown for 11 months after the first local case of COVID-19 was confirmed on March 5.

On March 23 last year South Africans woke up to a Level 5 lockdown which saw the entire country effectively shut down with only basic essential services operating.

Currently, the country has been on an adjusted Level 3 lockdown with restrictions on the size of religious gatherings and funerals and the sale of alcohol for consumption off-site confined to Mondays to Thursdays. – IOL

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