South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa says the country will ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions after April 30 for the revival of Africa’s second-largest economy.
However, President Ramaphosa, in the speech to the country on Thursday evening, was quick to add that “all South Africans [need] to wear a face mask whenever you leave home” even after restrictions have been lifted.
The president said the easing of the lockdown has become necessary because “our people need to eat and they need to earn a living.”
But the president also seemed to preempt criticisms of choosing the economy over the lives of South Africans by placing the responsibility to overcome the coronavirus on the doorsteps of citizens.
“Ultimately, it is our own actions, as individuals, that will determine how quickly the virus spreads,” Ramaphosa said.
The country has confirmed the most cases in Africa, nearly 4,000, with 75 deaths. But South Africa, along with Ghana, has carried the most tests too in that region.
South Africa’s government is characterizing the situation from May 1 as a Level 4 category of risk where “some activity can be allowed to resume subject to extreme precautions required to limit community transmission and outbreaks.”
The government continues to ban social gatherings in schools and places of worship. Travel between provinces are also barred while the country’s borders remain shut.
On the impact of the pandemic on South Africa’s economy, Ramaphosa explained the government has “undertaken a detailed exercise to classify the different parts of the economy according to the risk of transmission in that sector, the expected impact of the lockdown, the economic contribution of the sector and the effect on livelihoods.”
Businesses were also urged “to adhere to detailed health and safety protocols” so as to protect employees.
Meanwhile, President Ramaphosa reiterated the government’s intention to lessen the burden the coronavirus pandemic has had on South Africans. South Africa’s Reserve Bank is expected to cut interest rates in May to stimulate lending.