- South Africa could be open for business this summer, President Cyril Ramaphosa says, if a “majority” of people are vaccinated.
- He suggested foreign tourists (including from the UK) could be welcomed, and the last restrictions on bars and restaurants dropped.
- Concerts and sport matches with spectators could follow.
- In the meanwhile, alcohol sales remain banned after 23:00, and mass events limited to 2,000 people outdoors, under Alert Level 1 in place from Friday.
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South Africa still has time for what Americans referred to as a hot vax summer, President Cyril Ramaphosa suggested in an address to the nation on Thursday, with the country fully opened up for leisure and business.
Ramaphosa announced a move, effective Friday, to Alert Level 1. That means a ban on alcohol sales only after 23:00, and a limit for outdoor events of 2,000 people, just in time for heavy campaigning ahead of the local government elections.
The run-up to the election is a dangerous time, he warned.
“Campaign activities pose the greatest risk to a surge in new infections.”
But he ended his speech on an unusually upbeat note, suggesting that Level 1 could be just a temporary stop on the road to merely minor restrictions.
“If the majority of our population is vaccinated, we can declare South Africa to be a safe destination and welcome tourists back over the summer season,” Ramaphosa said. “We can resume sporting events and concerts, lift restrictions on restaurants and bars, and encourage people to return safely to their workplaces, shops and public spaces.”
Government guidance remains that those who can do so should work from home, and should avoid unnecessary exposure to other people. Nightclubs remain firmly banned, and there has been no mention yet of a return to spectators at sporting events under Level 1.
Ramaphosa closely linked a move to lesser restrictions to the government’s target of 70% vaccination coverage by the end of the year – but did not say outright to what extent proof of vaccination may be required to partake in some types of activities.
Instead he spoke of the possibility of doing so.
“It can be used to facilitate travel, access to establishments and gatherings and other forms of activity that require proof of vaccination status,” he said of vaccine passports.
“Streamlining and standardising proof of vaccination will also go a long way towards getting a number of international travel restrictions both from and into our country eased.”
The United Kingdom – an important source of tourists during the Northern Hemisphere winter – is now expected to drop its red-list status for South Africa during October, after lobbying by scientists and what Ramaphosa described as a conversation with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that left both “hopeful of a positive outcome”.
(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)