President Cyril Ramaphosa is preparing to ease lockdown restrictions, including the possible scrapping of an alcohol sales ban, according to people familiar with the matter.
The country will move to alert level 2, although details of which curbs will be retained are still being worked out, said four of the people, asking not to be identified because the information hasn’t been made public. Two said a decision had been taken to allow alcohol to be sold, two said the tobacco sales ban would be scrapped and one said travel restrictions would be relaxed.
Tyrone Seale, Ramaphosa’s acting spokesman, said he couldn’t immediately comment. Cooperative governance & traditional affairs ministry spokesman Lungi Mtshali didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone.
Most businesses were closed for five weeks from late March, when the government imposed one of the world’s most severe lockdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Infections skyrocketed after the restrictions were progressively eased to allow most people to return to work and the country has now had 566 109 confirmed cases, the fifth most in the world.
Remaining level-3 restrictions include bans on interprovincial travel, alcohol and tobacco sales, family visits and social gatherings.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize said in a radio interview on Wednesday that the lockdown rules should be eased because there have been declines in cases in the four most populous provinces. In addition, doctors are now expecting fatalities to be lower than previously feared.
The lockdown has had a devastating effect on the economy, with both the central bank and national treasury anticipating it will contract more than 7% this year. A study by a group of 30 academics and researchers estimated that three million people lost their jobs between February and April, while 1.5 million others were furloughed. — Reported by Paul Vecchiatto and Janice Kew, (c) 2020 Bloomberg LP