President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation at 8pm on Monday on developments related to the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and is expected to ease lockdown restrictions. 

His address follows meetings in recent days of the national coronavirus command council, the president’s coordinating council, and cabinet. 

With SA moving past the second wave of the pandemic and the number of infections starting to decrease, Ramaphosa is expected to lift the ban on the sale of alcohol and extend the curfew.

The country moved to level 3 of the lockdown at the end of December, before New Year celebrations, as the number of infections started to surge. The new level 3 lockdown included the ban on the sale and transport of alcohol, a more stringent curfew and the closing of beaches. 

Ramaphosa then extended the level 3 lockdown in January, saying it would stay in place until the government was sure that the number of infections had decreased enough to ease the restrictions. 

The return to level 3 left the hospitality and alcohol sectors reeling and threatened to destroy many small businesses, while big retailers were bracing to lose billions of rand. There had also been no announcement of relief for businesses or workers hit by the regulations.

Last week Heineken SA, which owns brands such as Windhoek and Amstel, became the first big company to announce job cuts due to the third alcohol ban. The decision came days after SAB, a unit of AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, said it had cancelled R2.5bn in planned investment.

Bottle manufacturer Consol, which has the alcohol industry as one of its biggest clients, said it is spending R8m a day on production despite a collapse in demand and is doing everything not to retrench workers.

Top Covid-19 adviser to health minister Zweli Mkhize, Salim Abdool Karim, last week said SA was over the worst of its second coronavirus surge and could see transmission slow sufficiently within the next fortnight to consider lifting restrictions.

Before he addresses the nation on Monday night, Ramaphosa will receive SA’s first consignment of Covid-19 vaccines at OR Tambo International Airport at 3pm. These vaccines are the first 1-million procured by the government from the Serum Institute of India. A further 500,000 are due for delivery later in the month.

The government has secured just more than 40-million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, including the 1.5-million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine earmarked for health-care workers. 

SA has so far also secured, 12-million vaccines from international vaccine financing vehicle Covax, 9-million from Johnson & Johnson and 20-million from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

SA has the biggest recorded Covid-19 outbreak in Africa, with more than 1.4-million confirmed cases and more than 44,000 deaths.