Given the relatively low transmission levels, President Cyril Ramaphosa in consultation with experts, representatives of provincial and local government and traditional leaders have decided to keep the country on Coronavirus Alert Level 1, with a few adjustments.
The President confirmed this during a much-anticipated national address on Tuesday evening.
This comes just a few days before the country will begin the annual Easter break.
“For many, this will be a welcome moment to pause and rest, whether from work or from our studies, and from the pressures of the last months. Many of us have made plans for the upcoming long weekend.
“Some of us will be heading out of town; others will be visiting friends and family. Many of us will be attending gatherings and celebrations.
“For millions of people, this is also a time of religious observance,” the President said.
He said while the rate of transmission remains stable, South Africans cannot let their guard down, adding that this is a time when caution is needed more than ever.
He said the reality is that greater movement of people, interprovincial travel, greater use of public transit and gatherings present a great risk of an increase in infections.
However, due to the specific circumstances of this period, the President announced a few adjustments to Alert Level 1.
The President said regulations would remain unchanged with the exception of the sale of alcohol.
“The sale of alcohol for off-site consumption will be prohibited this coming Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. On-site sales at restaurants, shebeens and bars will be allowed, according to licensing conditions, up until 11pm,” he said.
The President said the Easter weekend is a time of spiritual significance, and attending religious services is important to millions of people.
“For Christians, congregational worship is an important part of celebrating Easter.
“The Jewish community is currently celebrating Passover, and the Muslim community will soon be starting the Holy month of Ramadan,” he said.
In recent weeks, he said government has held consultations with faith communities to find mutually beneficial solutions to the challenges of managing large crowds at religious services.
Following this consultation, it has been determined that religious gatherings over this period will be restricted to a total number of 250 people indoors and 500 outdoors.
Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50 percent of the capacity of the venue may be used.
Congregants should not gather outside their usual places of worship, and people must go home and not sleep over after services.
He expressed gratitude to faith community leaders who engaged government positively.
President Ramaphosa urged the public in vulnerable groups – such as the elderly and those with co-morbidities – to avoid gatherings.
“We also urge that gatherings should take place in outdoor venues, which are significantly safer than gathering indoors,” he said.
He said the measures would be reviewed again in 15 days based on an assessment on the state of the pandemic and the extent of compliance with health protocols.