Media briefing by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
Members of the media
Thank you for this opportunity to elaborate on the regulations that we have gazetted which will move the country to Alert Level 1 from 21 September 2020. Indeed, it has been a difficult and testing six months since we first introduced measures to reduce and mitigate risks associated with this dangerous Corona Virus. It is perhaps the most defining health and economic crisis of our lifetime. The virus has the features of being silent, efficient, fast and fatal. It has disrupted our way of life forever and has reversed some of the social and economic gains we have registered as a nation.
Thanks to the collective efforts and sacrifices of all South Africans we have recorded sufficient progress. By heeding to our call to stay at home and move only when it is necessary we have curbed the spread of the virus. By observing the health and hygiene protocols we have ensured that our limited health capacity and capability is efficiently used to heal for those in most need of care. By following the regulations, we have had to adjust our approach from time to time to respond to the virus. All this has enabled us as a nation to record progress.
When we moved the country to Alert Level 2 on 18 August we had 592 144 total cases, new cases were 2 258 and new deaths were 282. As of yesterday, there were 655 572 total cases, there are 2 128 new cases and new deaths were 67. Indeed, we have registered progress.
Some of those who lost the battle were health and frontline workers, who have literally placed their lives on the line on daily basis. We reextend our condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of those patriots. Hambani Kahle Maqawe wesizwe!!!
Compatriots, we have recorded a consistent decline of infections for the past six weeks. This means slowly we are departing from the eye of the COVID-19 storm. This allows us, as announced by the President, to ease restrictions and increase economic activity. However, we must continue to treat the virus with the respect and attention it deserves. We must be vigilant as we continue and accelerate our efforts to save lives and livelihoods.
We are still in it for the long haul, and we must not allow fatigue and stress to take over. Instead we must redouble our efforts and remember that we got here through immense individual and collective sacrifices.
Given this scientific data and progress, the Minister of Health informs us that there is now sufficient hospital capacity, including beds, ICU space and ventilators. Consequently, we have had to make certain adjustments to the regulations in order to limit hardship. Ours is to walk the tight rope, as we delicately balance the saving of lives and livelihoods.
Thus, Cabinet took a decision to extend the National State of Disaster by a month, using the Risk Adjusted Strategy, we are now able to ease restrictions as we are moving the country to Risk Alert Level 1.
This means we can ease restrictions to the movement of persons. Everyone is expected to be confined to their places of residence from 00:01 just after midnight until 4am daily. It is only in exceptional circumstance that movement will be allowed during the curfew hours. This include those essential workers in possession of approved permits who conducting work during the curfew period or those that are attending to security or medical emergencies.
We will also further ease the restrictions in relation to all social and religious gatherings including conferences, meetings, concerts, cinemas, theatres, weddings and political gatherings. These gatherings are permitted for 250 people or less at a gathering held indoors and 500 persons at a gathering held outdoors, as long as they are occupy 50% of the capacity of the venue. Gatherings at casinos and visitations to hotels, lodges, bed and breakfasts, timeshare facilities, resorts and guest houses are limited to not more than 50% of the capacity of the venue, provided that social distance protocols are possible.
However, night clubs remain closed. We may also, from time to time, determine a place or premises that must be closed, if there is a risk of any member of the public being exposed to COVID-19.
We will continue with prohibiting initiation practices for the duration of the national state of disaster, thus no one may arrange, attend or hold an initiation school or conduct an initiation practice.
Given the attendant risks we have had to limit funerals to a maximum of 100 persons or less provided that not more than 50 percent of the capacity of the hosting venue is used, with persons observing a distance of least one and a half meters from each other. Night vigils, because of the associated risks remain prohibited and during a funeral, a person must wear a face mask and adhere to all health protocols and social distancing measures.
In fact, in all the permitted gatherings and events must all adhere to strict health and hygiene protocols, at all times. These protocols have now become our way of life and include washing hands, continuous sanitisation of surfaces, wearing of masks and maintaining a safe 1,5 metre social distance from each other. The mask is an important shield of defence, by wearing one I protect you from possibly infecting you and you protect me from possible infection. Therefore, we must wear masks when in a public place and visiting our loved ones, particularly the elderly and those with comorbidities.
We are also calling on all owners and operators of any indoor or outdoor facility where gatherings will be hosted to display a certificate of occupancy in full view for the public. This also includes establishments such as restaurants and taverns. The certificate ought to set out the maximum number of persons the facility may hold, a sample certificate is available on the COGTA website (www.cogta.gov.za).
Compatriots, as we prepare for the various by elections and the possibilities of next year's local government elections and census, the IEC will be allowed to do special votes. These activities will include visitations to various facilities including corrections, health and care facilities, announcements by the relevant authorities will be made in due course.
Because the virus has taken a physical and mental toll on South Africans we had also opened up gym facilities, cinemas and theatres during Level 2, we are now in a position to increase the number of people so that we can allow 50% of the capacity of the facility. So long as the health and hygiene protocols can and must be observed.
Compatriots, you will recall that the initial spread of virus came through international travel. However, given the progress we have made in our fight, 18 land border and 3 international air ports (OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town International Airport) will resume operation for international travel from 1 October. The 35 land borders currently closed, will remain closed and all commercial seaports will be opened.
This means all travellers from the African Continent and from countries outside the African Continent with a low rate infections and transmission, will resume subject to them having a health clearance certificate and the directions by the relevant ministers.
However, we must emphasize that every flight, bus, cruise and train ride carries with them a risk of further transmission. Thus, we will implement further and strict protocols to limit the risk.
It is our hope that in undertaking these activities we will maintain the strict protocols of social distancing, wearing of masks, sanitization, and washing of hands.
We must therefore exercise more caution and be more vigilant since with increased activity and movement the risks also increase. If not properly managed these risks could lead to a resurgence and a second and more deadly wave. Any misstep can easily return us to a place far worse than the eye of the storm. We all have the responsibility to protect each other, no one is safe until we are all safe.
Compatriots, during our media briefings, we have highlighted the issue of Gender Based Violence, and the president has called this the second pandemic we are dealing with. In interpreting the latest crime stats, it is clear that this pandemic had engulfed our nation before the COVID-19 pandemic, with an average 8 women and 3 children per day being murdered last year. Most of these murders had alcohol and substance abuse accompanying them.
We will have to accelerate our society wide response to this second pandemic. We must spare no efforts in fighting the COVID-19 and GBV pandemics, both of which will require patriotism and activism, from all South Africans. The Thuma Mina call must be heeded to more than ever before.
We will rely on the fourth estate and the public for us to overcome these pandemics. As the Director General of the WHO said last month "We are asking everyone to treat the decisions about where they go, what they do, and who they meet with, as life and death decisions - because they are. It may not be your life, but your choices could be the difference between life and death for someone you love, or for a complete stranger."
I thank you.