President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced South Africa’s move to Alert Level one of the lockdown from midnight Sunday 20 September. He made the announcement after a meeting with the President’s Co-ordinating Council and other stakeholders.
President Ramaphosa announcing move to Lockdown Level one:
South Africa has been on lockdown since March 26 to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Under Alert Level one, most normal activity will resume with safety precautions still adhered to. People will still be expected to observe social distancing, wear their masks and sanitise as advised by the Department of Health.
Below are Alert Level one lockdown restrictions:
Experts have also emphasised that it is important for South Africans to continue adhering to health and safety regulations.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim says while there is no reason why South Africa should not move to Alert Level one since the country is on a downward trajectory in terms of the outbreak, the move does not mean the country is out of danger.
“Moving to Level one does not mean that we should start allowing mass gatherings because those are exactly the types of things that would allow for the resurgence of the virus in South Africa.”
Prof Karim on move to Lockdown Level one:
President Cyril Ramaphosa also met with the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) to discuss the national economic recovery plan. The plan focuses on confidence-building and placing South Africa on a path to economic growth.
NEDLAC agrees on an action plan for economic recovery:
South Africa’s economy took a knock in the second quarter shrinking by 51% quarter on quarter.
Statistics South Africa attributed the negative growth to the lockdown. President Ramaphosa says work is being done to make the economy grow again.
Nearly all industries experienced a massive drop in output in the second quarter with the construction industry hardest hit, slumping further by 76.6%.
Manufacturing output also shrank by 74.9% due to work stoppages and low demand for steel. However, under Level one both industries will be fully functional.
The National State of Disaster that the President declared in March due to the pandemic has been extended to October 15.
SA under lockdown
South Africa has been under lockdown for 174 days. In March President Cyril announced the 21 day Level five lockdown to curb the spread of the virus from 26 March to 30 April 2020. The country came to a standstill with most economic activities brought to a halt. Academic activities were affected with contact lectures cancelled and schools closed.
Only individuals providing essential services were allowed to leave their homes for work. The essential personnel included, among others, health practitioners, people working in retail, media and law enforcement, needed permits to go to work. Businesses that provided essential services, same with the essential personnel, needed permits.
Government deployed members of the South African Defence Force to assist in ensuring regulations were adhered to. “You are called upon to go out and support our police, work with them, walk amongst our people and defend them against this virus. You are required to do so in the most understanding way,” said Ramaphosa.
President Ramaphosa’s speech to SANDF members in March this year:
However, incidents of alleged misconduct by SANDF members soon surfaced.
Below are Alert Level five lockdown regulations:
Level 4 lockdown
The country moved to Alert Level 4 on 1 May which saw the easing of regulations. “We have decided on this approach because there is still much that is unknown about the rate and manner of the spread of the virus within our population. The action we take now must, therefore, be measured and incremental,” said Ramaphosa.
Millions of South Africans were allowed to go back to work under strict regulations:
A curfew from 8pm to 5 am was introduced and wearing of masks became compulsory. During this period there was limited public transport. Road-based public services were permitted to operate services from 5am to 7pm with a grace period of one hour in the afternoon to complete their trips. The loading capacity remained at 70 % and the taxi industry was feeling the impact of the regulations.
No public transport was allowed on the road between 8pm and 5am. Restaurants and fast-food chains were allowed to produce food for delivery.
In May, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country will from 1 June move to Alert Level-3. “This will result in the opening up of the economy and the removal of a number of restrictions on the movement of people, while significantly expanding and intensifying our public health interventions,” he said.
All economic sectors were permitted to operate, except for high-risk activities that remained restricted. Religious organisations were reopened with no more than 50 congregants.
President Ramaphosa warned that organisations which do not adhere to regulations would be shutdown:
It was during this time that the taxi industry went head to head with the Department of Transport calling for the industry to be fully operational.
The South African National Taxi Association (Santaco) threatened to shut down the industry if it was not allowed to operate fully. The association said that owners were struggling to keep up with paying bank loans as a result of the restrictions.
SANTACO taxi strike during Level3 Lockdown:
This was despite the government’s R1.1 billion relief fund to the industry. Following engagements with the industry, the government announced that the industry would be allowed to be fully functional.
Level 2 Lockdown
South Africa moved to Alert Level 2 on 17 August. The sale of alcohol and tobacco products was unbanned. The ban on tobacco products throughout the lockdown created tension between government and industry players. The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association took the battle to court arguing that cigarettes should be regarded as essential products since tobacco is addictive.
FITA’s court battle:
Regarding alcohol, while the industry was concerned about possible job losses posed by the ban, government was concerned that alcohol consumption related incidents would overwhelm health facilities. Government was also concerned about the rising numbers of gender-based violence incidences related to alcohol consumption.
Impact of alcohol on GBV:
Level two saw a further lifting of restrictions to allow for more economic activity.
Level two regulations: