South Africa eases Covid rules, allows sale of alcohol

South Africa eased some restrictions imposed due to coronavirus, including lifting an unpopular ban on alcohol sales.

Announcing the changes President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “I want to call on all of us to drink responsibly so that we do not experience a spike in trauma cases or an increase in infections due to reckless behaviour.”

South Africans have faced three alcohol bans since the pandemic hit last March, the last was imposed on 28 December.

Beaches, rivers, parks and swimming pools will also reopen and limited religious gatherings would be allowed.

Curfew hours have also been trimmed.

South Africa has had the most Covid infections and deaths on the continent.

More than 1.4 million people have contracted the virus since the pandemic began, and 44,164 are known to have lost their lives, according to Johns Hopkins University research.

Many countries have banned travel from South Africa in an effort to stop the spread of the highly infectious 501Y.V2 variant, which is believed to have originated there and which is suspected to be more resistant to vaccines.

Meanwhile the nation received its first shipment of one million AstraZeneca vaccine doses as a chance to “turn the tide” on Covid-19.

The one million doses will be given to healthcare workers, although no date has been set for the start of the roll-out, and the number is still short of that needed just for the country’s 1.25 million health workers.

The country says it has negotiated access to more than 50 million doses and has set a target of inoculating 40 million people, two-thirds of the population, this year.

Mr Ramaphosa pledged to “leave no stone unturned” to reach herd immunity.