South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said most of the country will move toward relaxing coronavirus restrictions later this month even as the number of confirmed cases topped 12,000.
During a televised address Wednesday evening, Ramaphosa announced officials will immediately begin work on a proposal so that by the end of May, most of the country be placed on Alert Level 3 and certain businesses will partially reopen.
South Africa's approach to slowing the spread of the coronavirus is measured on a tier system, with 5 being the most restrictive.
The country began Level 4 on May 1 by allowing residents to exercise outdoors and some businesses to reopen.
Ramaphosa said parts of the country with high infection rates would remain under Alert Level 4, and travel to areas with lower rates of infection will be restricted.
Ramaphosa also defended his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, saying some citizens have questioned whether the nation’s approach in dealing with the coronavirus has been at the expense of the livelihood of its people. He said his administration’s strategic approach has been based on saving lives and preserving livelihoods.
South Africa has the highest number of coronavirus cases on the continent, with 12,074 infections and 219 deaths.