Inter-provincial travel for leisure may resume and the sale of alcohol will be permitted for off-site and onsite consumption from Monday as the country moves to Adjusted Alert Level 3 lockdown.
Addressing the nation on Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the overall decline in new COVID-19 infections meant that it was possible to gradually ease some of the restrictions on gatherings, movement and the sale of alcohol.
"Based on the recommendations of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, and inputs from the President's Coordinating Council, Cabinet this afternoon decided that the country should be moved from Adjusted Alert Level 4 and be placed on Adjusted Alert Level 3.
"This will take effect later this evening once the regulations have been gazetted," he said in his address.
Under Adjusted Alert Level 3:
- The hours of curfew will stay the same, starting at 10pm and ending at 4am;
- Interprovincial travel for leisure may resume;
- Non-essential establishments like restaurants, taverns, bars and fitness centres may be opened. These establishments will, however, need to close by 9pm to allow their employees and patrons to travel home before the start of the curfew;
- Gatherings will be allowed but will be limited to a maximum of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50 percent of the capacity of the venue may be used.
The President said gatherings that will be permitted under Adjusted Alert Level 3 include religious services, political events and social gatherings.
"The limits on venue capacity also apply to restaurants, gyms, fitness centres, bars, taverns and similar places.
"Attendance at funerals and cremations may not exceed 50 people and all social distancing and health protocols must be observed. Night vigils and after-funeral gatherings are still not allowed."
The President said the sale of alcohol from retail outlets for off-site consumption will be permitted between 10am and 6pm from Monday to Thursday. Alcohol sales for onsite consumption will be permitted as per licence conditions up to 8pm.
"Schools will re-open tomorrow, Monday the 26th of July, according to strict health protocols and other measures announced by the Minister of Basic Education."
The President said despite the easing of regulations it remains mandatory for every person to wear a face mask that covers the nose and mouth at all times when in public spaces.
Owners and managers of public buildings, centres, shops, restaurants, taxis and buses all have a responsibility to ensure that people on their premises or in their vehicles wear masks.
"They must also ensure that the appropriate social distancing measures are in place and are adhered to. It is important to remember that it is a criminal offence if the number of people on these premises exceeds the maximum number of customers or employees allowed."
Age group 18-34 to be vaccinated from 1 September
The President said in the last few weeks, the country's vaccination campaign has gained momentum, with more than 240 000 vaccines being administered every weekday.
A month ago, this figure stood at around 100 000 vaccines per weekday.
"As a result, we have now administered more than 6.3 million vaccines, with over 10 percent of our population having received a vaccine dose. This has been possible through close collaboration between government and the private sector and with the active support of other social partners."
The President said in the coming weeks, government will substantially increase the rate of vaccination. This as government increases the number of vaccination sites and improves the vaccination registration system.
"We will also increase our vaccination capacity on weekends.
"We will now allow people between the ages of 18 and 34 to be vaccinated from the 1st of September 2021. This will be in addition to the age groups that are currently eligible, which is everyone over 35 years of age."
He said that the substantial increase in the rate of vaccination will be made possible by improvements in the supply of vaccines.
"Within the next two to three months, we are scheduled to receive around 31 million additional doses from Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. We are taking decisive action now to secure the livelihoods of millions of people that have been threatened by both the pandemic and the unrest," said President Ramaphosa.
Social relief grant reinstated until March 2022
Meanwhile, the President announced a range of measures to support the recovery of the economy and provide relief to the poor and those who are vulnerable as a result of the measures government had to impose to deal with COVID-19.
"To support those who have no means of supporting themselves, we are reinstating the Social Relief of Distress Grant to provide a monthly payment of R350 until the end of March 2022.
"This has been made possible by the slight improvement we have seen in our revenue collection," he said.
The number of people who are eligible for this grant has been expanded by allowing unemployed caregivers who currently receive a Child Support Grant to apply.
The President said government was working on a support package for small businesses, formal and informal, who are uninsured and who were impacted by the riots in parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.