S. AFRICA: President eases lockdown restrictions amid high covid-19 cases

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In the face of a deteriorating economic situation, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has opted to ease lockdown restrictions further even though coronavirus cases are beginning to rise rapidly.

In the past week alone, the number has increased by 37%.

But in a frank address to the nation, the president highlighted the need to preserve peoples’ livelihoods.

As a result, he said that parts of the leisure industry will reopen soon.

At the end of March, the country entered into one of the strictest lockdown regimes in the world, almost all movement outside was restricted and the sale of cigarettes and alcohol was banned.

But, he warned “this task is far from complete. Even after 100 days, we are still near the beginning of this epidemic and it will remain with us for many more months, possibly years”.

Nevertheless, sit-down restaurants, casinos, hotels and hair-dressers, among other businesses, will now be able to reopen, which could see half a million people going back to work. But no date was set for when the change will happen.

At the beginning of the month, the key mining sector as well as manufacturing businesses were allowed to return to normal production levels. People were also allowed outside and the ban on the sale of alcohol was lifted.

South Africa’s economy has taken a massive knock as a result of months of lockdown and the further easing of restrictions will be welcome relief to struggling small business owners, BBC business reporter Vumani Mkhize says.

The country has recorded more than 80,000 cases of coronavirus and there have been 1,674 deaths.

The Western Cape province, which includes Cape Town, the seat of parliament, is the hardest hit place in the country with nearly 60% of all the cases.

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But cases are also rising rapidly in the Eastern Cape province, the president warned.

A Catholic convent in that province has been particularly hard hit.

Five nuns at the Mother House Convent in Mthatha have died from the virus, Eyewitness News reports. Seventeen others have tested positive and the local health authority has said it is taking measures to manage the outbreak there.

Some health workers have also been complaining of a lack of space and equipment, the AFP news agency reports.

It quotes a nurse at Livingstone Hospital in Eastern Cape as saying that the management of the hospital has been chaotic.

“Last time I went on duty I got eight gloves,” she said. “How do I work with eight pairs of gloves for a 12-hour shift?”

BBC