The president of South Africa has warned that the country’s coronavirus outbreak is going to get much worse, while announcing that lockdown measures are to be eased.
Cyril Ramaphosa said a third of the country’s more than 22,000 cases had been recorded in the last week.
Despite that, the president said the current lockdown could not be sustained indefinitely.
He announced that, from 1 June, more restrictions would be lifted.
Mr Ramaphosa was speaking after a mining company in South Africa said 164 workers at a gold mine near Johannesburg had tested positive for coronavirus.
There have so far been 429 recorded Covid-19 deaths in the country.
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How will the lockdown be eased?
An overnight curfew will no longer be in place, more businesses will be allowed to open and schools will re-start, the president said.
A controversial ban on alcohol will also end, with limited sales allowed for home consumption only and “only under strict conditions on specified days and for limited hours”, the president said.
But Mr Ramaphosa said the ban on the sale of cigarettes will remain “due to the health risks associated with smoking”.
He also announced that there would be a phased re-opening of schools because “we are concerned about the growth and development of our children and that an entire generation of learners should not be permanently disadvantaged this pandemic”.
But he added that “no parent will be forced to send their child to school if they are worried about safety at school”.
What did he say about the spread of the virus?
The president has been under pressure to ease lockdown measures to restart the economy.
However, he warned the public that the worst is still ahead.
“We should expect that these numbers will rise even further and even faster,” he said.
“The coronavirus pandemic in South Africa is going to get much worse before it gets better,” he added.
At least 40,000 people could die with coronavirus in South Africa by the end of the year, scientists warned last week.
What’s happening at the Mponeng mine?
The Mponeng mine is the deepest gold mine in the world.
Operations have been halted after 164 cases of coronavirus were detected there. Most of those who tested positive were not showing any symptoms.
They have all been put into isolation, according to the mine’s owners, AngloGold Ashanti.