South African leader lifts lockdown restrictions after COVID-19 infections fall

FILE PHOTO: South African President and AU Chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham -/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visits the COVID-19 treatment facilities at the NASREC Expo Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa April 24, 2020. Jerome Delay/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Saturday that all indications were that South Africa had reached the peak of COVID-19 infections, as he announced a sweeping removal of lockdown restrictions on the economy.

In a televised address, Ramaphosa said the government would end the ban on alcohol and tobacco, allow restaurants and taverns to return to normal business, subject to strict hygiene regulations, and remove the ban on travel between provinces.

He said a fall in the infection rates, as well as people recovering, were “significantly reducing the pressure on our health facilities”, but he cautioned that cases could easily surge if people fail to maintain vigilance. Restrictions on international travel remained in place, he said.

South Africa has more than half a million cases, but the rate of infections has declined over the past two weeks.