JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday the country would open its international borders selectively for travel and tourism from Oct. 1, bringing much needed relief to a sector largely dependent on high-spending foreign tourists.
The easing of travel restrictions is part of the President’s announcement to shift the country to the lowest level of coronavirus lockdown in a five level system from September 21.
“We will be allowing travel into and out of South Africa for business, leisure and other travel with effect from 1 October 2020,” the President said in a televised address.
Travel may be restricted to and from countries that have high infection rates and based on the travellers meeting certain conditions, he added.
The announcement comes after six months of imposing one of the strictest lockdowns in the world which hit the continent’s most industrialised nation hard, setting its economy back by 13 years and pushing millions more into unemployment where almost a third of the workforce was already jobless.
But the number of new cases started receding from August with the current average daily rate of new cases below 2,000 and recovery rate at 89%, Ramaphosa said.
The President also eased the overnight curfew on the movement of people and increased the limit on social, religious and political gatherings to 50% of the capacity of a venue, allowing 250 people for indoor gatherings and 500 people for outdoors.
Recreation and fitness centres have also been allowed with 50% capacity, although sporting events are still restricted.
(Reporting by Promit Mukherjee; Editing by Chris Reese and Alexandra Hudson)