President Cyril Ramaphosa last night announced that South Africa will be downgraded to Alert Level 1 on Sunday.

This will see larger gatherings being permitted, along with international travel, the sale of alcohol allowed from Monday to Friday, and the curfew shifted to midnight.

In his address to the nation, the president said the country had weathered the Covid-19 storm, but he also warned of a potential second wave of the pandemic and asked citizens to continue being vigilant in this regard.

“It is time to return our country to a situation that is more normal, it is time to move to what we call a new normal for as long as Covid is with us,” said the president.

Confirming some of the speculation leading up to his address, the president said it was time for South Africa to remove many of the remaining restrictions to economic activity in the country.

Ramaphosa said the decision was made following consultations with provincial and local government representatives as well as experts.

He imposed a hard lockdown in March as part of his government’s efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19, which had strict regulations and only allowed for essential services to operate.

With the move to Alert Level 1, restrictions on international travel will gradually and cautiously be eased.

In recent months, there has been a gradual phasing out of the lockdown, which included regulations being revised as per the government’s risk-adjusted approach to the coronavirus.

Last week, he hinted the move to Level 1 was on the horizon in an engagement with the South African National Editors’ Forum.

“Social, religious, political and other gatherings will be permitted, as long as the number of people does not exceed 50 percent of the normal capacity of a venue  up to a maximum of 250 people for indoor gatherings and 500 people for outdoor gatherings,” said Ramaphosa.

Both business and leisure travel will be allowed from October 1, with some possible restrictions in place for countries with high infection rates  a list is expected to be published in the coming days.

“On arrival, travellers will need to present a negative Covid-19 test result, not older than 72 hours from time of departure,” said the president.

Travellers will be able to use one land post, which had been operational throughout the lockdown, as well as King Shaka, OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airports.

He said travellers, who had not done a test before making their way into the country, will be required to go into mandatory quarantine at their own cost.  news24