S. African president declares National Day of Prayer amid pandemic
People's Daily

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation address at parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, Feb 13, 2020. (Photo: Agencies)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday declared May 31 as the National Day of Prayer to strengthen national unity in fighting COVID-19.

"On this day, wherever we may be, I call upon you to turn your thoughts to all who have been affected by this pandemic," the president said in a televised address, adding that the National Day of Prayer is dedicated to the remembrance of those who are working to keep South African safe, and those who are suffering and grieving.

Ramaphosa also confirmed that the country will ease the current lockdown from level four to level three on June 1, and restrictions on congregational worship will be loosened in a carefully measured way.

The level-three lockdown will allow 8 million people to return to work with the resumption of most sectors of the economy, following strict health protocols and social distancing rules.

Places of worship may reopen subject to strict restrictions, Ramaphosa said, adding that social distancing will have to be observed and all worshippers and participants will have to wear face masks in line with the current regulations.

The social distancing and hygiene measures that are in place under the lockdown will have to continue in the future, and cannot be abandoned or compromised, he noted.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the country has reported over 23,615 COVID-19 cases and 481 deaths.