'You can drink, but you can't smoke,' Cyril Ramaphosa tells South Africans as lockdown is relaxed

President Cyril Ramaphosa gave an update on the government's risk-adjusted strategy to manage the spread of Covid-19 in SA on May 24 2020. He said the country would be placed on level 3 of the national lockdown regulations on June 1. Ramaphosa consulted with business, labour, religious leaders and the tourism industry before his address.

It's official, South Africans will be allowed to buy and sell alcoholic beverages on June 1 after a ban on liquor that lasted more than 60 days.

This was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday night as the country moves into alert level 3 of government's strategy of controlling the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But smokers will have to wait a little longer as tobacco products remain banned.

The Sunday Times reported on Sunday that the National Command Council on Coronavirus had lifted the sale and transportation of alcohol, and that a group of ministers, led by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, had recommended that the tobacco ban remain.

However, the lifting of the alcohol ban comes with conditions as only home consumption will be allowed.

Jogging will now also be allowed at any time of the day as long as it is not done in groups, said Ramaphosa.

While several restrictions have been lifted, some will remain in place including the continued closure of taverns, bars and restaurants unless for the delivery and collection of cooked food.

All mass gathering, such as sporting events and church sermons, will remain prohibited.

“Alcohol will be sold for home consumption, only under strict conditions on specified days, and for limited hours. Announcements in this regard will be made once we have concluded discussions with the sector,” said Ramaphosa.

“The sale of tobacco products will remain prohibited in alert level 3 due to the health risks associated with smoking.

“All gatherings will remain prohibited except for funerals, with no more than 50 people.

“Any place, open to the public, work, cultural, sporting, entertainment, recreational, exhibition and organisational or where similar activities may take place will remain closed.”

Ramaphosa said though the number of Covid-19 infections was still expected to rise, the country could not remain on lockdown indefinitely.

He said it was time to strike the balance between the virus and the economic and social impact it was having.

Manufacturing, mining, construction, financial, services, professional and business services, information technology, communications, government services and media services would be allowed to go back to work under level 3.

However, employers were advised to take the necessary precautions, including basic hygiene and social distancing.

Daily screening of those returning to work will also be compulsory while employers will have to quarantine those who get infected and assist in the contact tracing.

But not all employees can go back to work, even in the industries that will open full-time.

T hose who are 60 years and older, as well as staff with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, cancer and pneumonia, have been advised to continue working from home.

Said Ramaphosa: “Companies will need to put in place, sanitary and social distancing measures, and facilities, they will need to screen workers on arrival, each day quarantine those who may be infected and make arrangements for them to be tested.

“They also need to assist with contact tracing if employees test positive because of their vulnerability, or staff who are older than 60 years of age, and those who suffer from underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer should ideally stay at home.”

Police minister Bheki Cele updated South Africans on the state of law enforcement so far during the lockdown on May 22 2020. Cele said organised crime syndicates have used the lockdown to expand their illegal trade with R2.67m in “contraband” items confiscated on SA's borders since the beginning of the lockdown.

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