Topline: A more placid Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Monday evening. Only three weeks ago, the South African president had banned alcohol sales and closed borders at the peak of the second wave of the pandemic. In his address, he also presented a clearer picture related to Covid-19 vaccines, having personally received the first batch that landed earlier in the day.
● On February 1, South Africa watched as an Emirates flight carrying the first consignment of Covid-19 vaccines arrived at OR Tambo International Airport with one million AstraZeneca doses. In addition to that, another 500,000 doses are expected to arrive later this month, also from the Serum Institute of India. The country has also secured 12 million doses in total from the global COVAX facility, which has indicated that it will release approximately 2 million doses by March. Johnson & Johnson will commence with the delivery of 9 million doses by the second quarter of 2021.
● Ramaphosa also announced, as the African Union (AU) Chairperson, that through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team of the AU, one billion doses of the vaccine have been secured for the entire African continent.
● “Seven hundred million of these will come from the global COVAX facility and 300 million have been facilitated by the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team,” Ramaphosa said in his address.
● The president has reiterated that no one will be forced to take the vaccine against their will.
The Easing of Restrictions?
● Alongside news regarding the distribution of vaccines in South Africa, the president also announced the easing of restrictions put in place on January 11.
● “We are pleased that across the country, most people are adhering to the restrictions we have had to impose and are diligently observing the basic health measures needed to prevent infection,” Ramaphosa said.
● The country will stay at Alert Level Three of the lockdown but the following changes will be made to the restrictions:
○ The curfew will now be from 11PM to 4AM.
○ However, establishments will need to close by 10PM to allow customers and staff to return home by curfew.
○ Faith-based gatherings will be permitted, but may not exceed 50 people for indoor venues and 100 persons for outdoor venues.
○ Public places such as beaches, dams, rivers, parks, and public swimming pools will be reopened.
○ The sale of alcohol by licensed premises for off-site consumption will be permitted from Mondays to Thursdays, from 10AM to 6PM.
The president was happy to report that South Africa has recorded the lowest daily increase in infections since the beginning of December last year.
“In fact, the average rate of new infections has been steadily coming down over the last three weeks, indicating that we have now passed the peak of the second wave,” Ramaphosa said.