Covid-19: Ramaphosa eases restrictions, moves country to level 3

Government to reinstate the social relief of distress grant to provide a monthly payment of R350 until the end of March 2022.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his national address on Sunday evening, announced South Africa is moving to adjusted alert level 3.

Ramaphosa’s address followed meetings of the National Coronavirus Command Council, the President’s Co-ordinating Council and Cabinet. His national address on July 11 saw the country remain on adjusted alert level 4 until today, July 25.

He announced that schools will re-open tomorrow, July 26 and alcohol sales for on-site consumption will be permitted again up to 20:00.

The sale of alcohol from retail outlets for off-site consumption will be permitted between 10:00 and 18:00 from Monday to Thursday.

Non-essential establishments like restaurants, taverns, bars and fitness centres may be opened, but they will need to close by 21:00 to allow employees and patrons to travel home before the start of curfew.

Inter-provincial travel for leisure may resume and gatherings will again be allowed at a maximum of 50 people and venues that are too small may not allow more than 50 percent capacity of the venue to be used.

“We know that indoor gatherings, particularly in places that have poor ventilation, are the major cause of outbreaks and super-spreader events,” said Ramaphosa.

Vaccinations

The president announced that in the coming weeks, SA will see an increase in the number of vaccination sites and people between 18 and 34 will be eligible for vaccination from September 1.

“We are now administering more than 240 000 vaccines every weekday. SA has administered more than 6.3 million vaccines, with over 10% of the population having received a vaccine dose.

“We can now allow people to present themselves at a vaccination site without an appointment and be registered and vaccinated.

“Within the next two to three months, we are scheduled to receive around 31 million additional doses from Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. This supply pipeline means that there will be sufficient vaccine doses available for the rest of the year.

“As a result of our negotiations with pharmaceutical companies and various developed economy governments, our country and our continent has been able to secure vaccines and is able to manufacture vaccines on our continent,” he said.

“Aspen, based in Gqeberha, will from October, be manufacturing vaccines solely for the African continent and a few weeks ago, the World Health Organisation chose South Africa as a hub for the manufacture of vaccines.

“The Biovac Institute in Cape Town was also appointed to manufacture the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for distribution in Africa.”

Ramaphosa reminded South Africans that they can register for vaccination as soon as they were eligible, whether online, via WhatsApp or USSD, or by calling the toll-free number on 0800 029 999.

Violence and looting

Responding to the incidents of violence and looting in South Africa, especially in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in recent weeks, Ramaphosa said that government increased the deployment of SAPS and SANDF personnel to ensure stability.

“We have maintained this deployment in areas regarded as potential hotspots, as well as key economic and government infrastructure, shopping centres, warehouses and factories.

“Although calm has been restored to these areas, the impact of the violence and destruction continues to be felt by households, employees and businesses.”

Economy

He announced that to support the recovery of the economy and provide relief to the poor and those who are vulnerable as a result of the measures that had to be imposed, government will reinstate the social relief of distress grant to provide a monthly payment of R350 until the end of March 2022.

“We are expanding the number of people who are eligible for this grant by allowing unemployed caregivers who currently receive a child support grant to apply.

“In addition to the food relief being provided by the Department of Social Development, government is contributing R400-million to the humanitarian crisis relief fund to assist with the immediate needs of affected communities,” the president said.

Also read: Full relaxation of alcohol ban unlikely, says economist

“We also need to ensure that those businesses that were damaged or looted are able to rebuild and reopen as quickly as possible. We are one of the few countries in the world to have a state-owned insurance company, SASRIA, which provides cover against incidents of public violence, strikes, riots and unrest.

“SASRIA has committed to expedite the payment of all valid claims, and is working together with private insurers to ensure that assessments are completed without delay,” said Ramaphosa.

“Some businesses that were victims of this violence may not have been insured. This includes many small and medium-sized businesses, whether formal or informal. Many of these businesses have lost everything, and will not be able to rebuild on their own. We will not abandon them in their time of need.

“We are working to extend support to uninsured businesses that were affected by the violence. Government will set aside dedicated funds for this purpose and we will soon announce a mechanism for these businesses to apply for support.”

He said SA will also be re-prioritising funding for SMMEs affected by the pandemic through a once-off business survival funding mechanism.

“We are working with large businesses to determine their contribution to the support of SMMEs, job creation and eradication of hunger and poverty.

“The UIF will facilitate payments as quickly as possible to support workers who have not received an income and we are expanding the employment tax incentive for a period of four months to include any employee earning below R6 500 and to increase the incentive amount by up to R750 per month.

“We will also defer payment of PAYE taxes for a period of three months to provide businesses with additional cash flow, with an automatic deferral of 35% of PAYE liabilities for employers with revenue below R100 million.

“The payment of excise taxes by the alcohol sector will be deferred for a period of three months, to ease the burden on the sector as it recovers.”

July 25 Covid-19 statistics

Today, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases reported 9 718 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 2 377 823. This increase represents a 26.6% positivity rate. A further 287 Covid-19 related deaths were reported, bringing the total to 69 775.

A total of 14 563 847 tests were conducted in public and private sectors. The majority of new cases are from Gauteng at 28% followed by Western Cape at 25%. The country has seen an increase of 366 hospital admissions in the past 24 hours.

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