South Africa’s government announced plans to further ease a nationwide lockdown as the fallout from shuttering much of the economy threatens to outweigh the damage wrought by the coronavirus.
Consultations will begin in the coming days about moving most of country to disease alert level 3 by the end of the month, from level 4, and allow a number of additional industries to resume operations, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Wednesday in a televised address to the nation. Level 4 restrictions will remain in force in areas where infection rates are highest, including some of the main cities.
“We’re now preparing for a further easing of the lockdown and a gradual opening of our economy,” Ramaphosa said. “If we lift the lockdown too abruptly and too quickly, we risk a rapid and unmanageable surge in infections. We will therefore continue to proceed cautiously, informed by the best available evidence.”
The authorities have faced mounting criticism that some lockdown rules are nonsensical, have no bearing on the fight against the virus and have caused undue harm to the country. The government will announce changes to level 4 regulations to expand permitted business activities and e-commerce, and reduce restrictions on exercise, Ramaphosa said.