President Cyril Ramaphosa will tell the nation on Wednesday night that he is moving the country to Level 1 of the national lockdown and opening up international travel – with provisos.
Travel from high risk countries such as the United States and some of the major EU countries will remain banned.
Controversially, however, arrivals from India and Brazil – which have the second and third highest infection rates in the world – will be permitted.
People arriving from countries permitted into SA will have to produce a negative test result taken 72 hours before travel, which will grant them access without having to quarantine first.
According to top insiders who attended meetings of the Presidential Coordinating Council on Tuesday, Cabinet – which is meeting on Wednesday – is expected to endorse the decision to move to Level 1 of the lockdown and the resumption of international travel. The president would then address the nation afterwards.
Travellers who display symptoms will have to quarantine at own cost, even if they produce evidence of having tested negative 72 hours prior
Acting presidential spokesperson Tyrone Seale could not immediately confirm this when contacted on Wednesday morning. “We do normally make announcements before the President addresses the nation,” he said.
A member of the National Coronavirus Command Council said the decision to move the country to Level 1 and allow international travel, was supported by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, who cited declining daily infection rates and the availability of beds at trauma units and quarantine facilities as evidence that South Africa was ready to open up.
A senior government official privy to discussions said the decision to open up was premised on a risk-based approach.
“We have a very low number of hospital admissions, very low numbers in critical wards. Our equipment such as ventilators are in abundance and quarantine sites are laying empty at the moment. We are seeing low admissions and low infection rates on a daily basis. Less than one thousand people per day are contracting the virus.
“Should there be an case upsurge at Level 1, based on empirical evidence around the world a second upsurge is never as big as the first one. We have enough equipment and facilities to handle it.”
An NCC insider said while borders and other points of entry would reopen, government had decided that travellers from high risk countries not be permitted to enter South Africa. These include the US, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy – which are key markets for the revival of the tourism sector. But arrivals from India and Brazil, each with 4.3-million and 5-million infections respectively, will be allowed. “India and Brazil do not present high numbers for us.”
Travellers who display symptoms will have to quarantine at own cost, even if they produce evidence of having tested negative 72 hours before they travelled.
The Presidency said that Cyril Ramaphosa would announce the details of an action plan agreed to by the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) once it had been finalised by Cabinet.
It announced on Tuesday that the Nedlac had agreed to the plan for economic recovery at a meeting chaired by the president.
The Presidency said that the plan was now due for consideration and finalisation by Cabinet.
It said that the plan was directed towards building confidence and placing South Africa on a path of investment and growth.
The country has seen a major decline in growth due to COVID-19, with a second quarter contraction of 16.4% compared to the quarter before.
This comes with unemployment at over 30%.
However, the social partners involved in the meeting said that the new action plan was founded on what needed to be done to set the economy on an accelerated, inclusive and transformative growth trajectory.
The president said that it was a collaboration that had produced “a significant milestone in the history of the country’s democracy and rises to the challenge of the moment”.