Johannesburg, April 24 (IANS) South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday announced an easing of some lockdown restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic beginning next month, citing economic concerns.

In the statement, Ramaphosa said a month-long lockdown has been working, and has slowed the pandemic’s progress, the BBC reported.

But people need to eat, and to earn a living, he said.

He however, warned that most people should remain at home, public gatherings remain banned, and the country’s borders will remain closed.

From May 1, some businesses will be allowed to reopen, and a third of their employees can return to work.

Some schools will also reopen but with strict limits likely on class sizes.

Under the new plans, South Africa’s alert level will drop from “level 5” to “level 4”.

Mines will be opened though many at reduced capacity. Financial and agricultural sectors will also reopen, according to local media, and supermarkets will be allowed to sell more stock.

Buses, taxis and private vehicles will be allowed on the roads at any time of day, but movement between provinces was still banned and international flights are cancelled except for those repatriating citizens.

Smaller gatherings of fewer than 10 people will be permitted, as will the purchase of cigarettes.

But bars and the sale of alcohol remain outlawed. Social distancing will be enforced.

The country has some of the most stringent coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the world, but security forces have struggled to enforce them, said the BBC report.

Most people are still being urged to stay at home, but will be allowed to go out and exercise when the new rules come into effect.

Since March 27, only essential service providers, such as health workers, financial services providers, journalists and retail workers, were allowed to continue going to work.

Businesses that provide essential services have been applying for a special permit from the government that allows their members of staff to go outside.

The restrictions have included no jogging outside, no sales of alcohol or cigarettes, no dog-walking, no leaving home except for essential trips and prison or heavy fines for law-breaking.

As of Friday, South Africa has reported 3,953 coronavirus cases, with 75 deaths.

–IANS

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