South Africa, which had one of the world’s earliest and strictest lockdowns, has announced a further easing of anti-coronavirus measures.
From 20 September an overnight curfew will be reduced, gatherings will be allowed at 50% of a venue’s capacity, and alcohol will again be on sale.
“We have withstood the coronavirus storm,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa in a televised address to the nation.
But rules on social distancing and mask-wearing will remain in place.
South Africa – which went into a national lockdown on 27 March – has so far reported more than 650,000 confirmed infections, with over 15,000 deaths.
However, the number of new cases has dropped from about 12,000 per day in July to fewer than 2,000.
“Now is the time to return our country, its people and our economy to a situation that is more normal, that more resembles the lives that we were living six months ago,” Mr Ramaphosa said.
“It is time to move to what will become our new normal for as long as the coronavirus is with us.”
The president announced that following consultations with health experts and officials from across South Africa, the country would lower its current alert Level 2 to Level 1 from midnight on 20 September.
This means that:
Social, religious, political and other gatherings will be permitted, as long as the number of people does not exceed 50% of the normal capacity of a venue, up to a maximum of 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors
The maximum number of people who can attend a funeral is increased from 50 to 100
Venues for exercise, recreation and entertainment – such as gyms and theatres – currently limited to 50 people, will be allowed to accommodate up to 50% of their venue’s capacity
The national 22:00 – 04:00 curfew will start two hours later
Alcohol will be permitted for on-site consumption in licensed establishments
South Africa shut its borders at the star of the lockdown, but President Ramaphose said that international travel would resume from 1 October. Those arriving in South Africa must present a negative coronavirus test taken within three days of travel.
Mr Ramaphosa also said that a further stimulus package was being drawn up to rebuild an economy that has been savaged by the lockdown.