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South Africa went into a national lockdown on 27 March

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.

What did President Ramaphosa say?

“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.

Story continues

Mr Ramaphosa also said that a further stimulus package was being drawn up to rebuild an economy that has been savaged by the lockdown.

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UK lockdown: Boris Johnson to order pubs to close at 10pm from Thursday as part of new coronavirus restrictions

BORIS Johnson will tomorrow order pubs to shut at 10pm every night after dire warnings of thousands more ­cases of Covid-19.

The curfew, from this Thursday, will also hit restaurants and all other hospitality venues in England.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

11Boris Johnson will order pubs and restaurants to close at 10pm as part of new Covid restrictionsCredit: PA:Press Association 11The Prime Minister fought off pressure from Cabinet to shut the hospitality industry completelyCredit: Getty Images - Getty

The Prime Minister hopes the move, along with other restrictions to be an­n­ounced, will avoid the need for a second crippling lockdown.

Boris Johnson has staved off pressure from Cabinet to shut the hospitality industry completely and will address the nation on TV tomorrow evening.

This follows a chilling briefing from the UK’s top docs that we had “in a bad sense literally turned a corner” — with the death rate primed to hit 200 per day again within weeks.

The package of new measures to be unveiled will also include a dramatic increase in enforcement measures to make sure people are obeying the Rule of Six.

Ministers are also poised to signal more working from home is required, just weeks after begging Brits to return to their offices.

There are mounting fears that social mixing between households inside could be banned after it was outlawed in Northern Ireland.

That seems increasingly likely after the medics’ dire warning that people could be ordered to stay away from family and friends — rules already in place in some parts of the country.

Tonight, it was unclear when that measure would come into force — but Transport Secretary Grant Shapps hinted: “We need to push down on the R-rate by restricting social contact.”

11The hospitality curfew is part of other restrictions to be announcedCredit: Alamy 11Social distancing has already reduced the number of tables in restaurantsCredit: Getty Images - Getty

There will be a significant cap on the number of guests allowed at weddings.

The Covid threat level was raised from three to four, meaning the virus is running amok across the country — signalling six months of further misery.

Chief medical adviser Chris Whitty warned everyone has a part to play in stopping the disease, insisting: “This is not someone else’s problem, this is all of our problems.”

But following a major Cabinet backlash, Mr Johnson stepped back from more sweeping and draconian measures, including the closure of pubs entirely.

CABINET BACKLASH

A senior Whitehall source said: “Every option comes with a very big stick.”

The PM will chair an emergency meeting of Cobra this morning — the first in months — and summon his Cabinet to sign off his new clampdown.

The nation has been told they should limit the number of households that people are coming into contact with to minimise the risk of infection.

People in the North and Midlands are already banned from visiting others in their homes or gardens, or hanging out with people they do not live with in pubs.

11Whitty and Vallance gave a dire warning to the nation this morningCredit: London News Pictures

This also means people in relationships who do not live together cannot meet.

But all of the measures are designed by Mr Johnson to avoid a full lockdown.

The halfway house plans came after an outpouring of anger from the Government’s own MPs and warnings against shutting down the hospitality sector from Rishi Sunak.

The Chancellor, backed by Business Secretary Alok Sharma, led a charge from the Cabinet against a plea from Health Secretary Matt Hancock, supported by Michael Gove, to take more sweeping action against pubs.

11Ministers are also poised to signal more working from home is requiredCredit: Getty Images - Getty

Senior officials at both the Treasury and Business department said the hospitality industry is key to us bouncing back from the pandemic.

Mr Hancock was greeted in the Commons today by anger from Tory benches.

Despite avoiding a full shutdown, industry chiefs greeted news of the pub curfew with dismay.

Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin said: “We’ve only just finished Eat Out To Help Out — the public is confused.”

Dr Bharat Pankhania, an epidemiologist from the University of Exeter, said it would be ineffective.

He claimed: “The virus does not understand the clock, so if you’re going to close at 10pm, what about at 9pm, what about 8pm?”

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Londoners face fresh restrictions within days after cases in some parts soared higher than areas of England already in lockdown.

London mayor Sadiq Khan is due to formally request local measures after he met the leaders of the city’s 32 boroughs today.

The number of weekly cases in London has hit around 25 cases per 100,000 residents — higher than other areas of England that are on Public Health England’s watchlist.

Boris Johnson to hold lockdown talks with Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish leaders this afternoon

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