President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the national COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa will start to be eased next week.
He said while the lockdown has been effective in containing the spread of the virus, it cannot be sustained indefinitely.
When the full nationwide lockdown ends, South Africa will transition to a system of 5 alert levels to ensure we can ease restrictions as safely as possible.
Level 5 is the most serious infection rate, while level 1 is the lowest infection rate. The country is currently at level 5, with the strictest lockdown restrictions.
The national alert level will be lowered to level 4 from Friday, 1 May 2020. This means that strict precautions will still hold.
Certain activity will be allowed to resume and certain businesses will be allowed to resume operations under a set of guidelines.
New business rules
Ramaphosa warned that some sectors will not be able to return to full production during level 4, while the risk of infection remains high.
Businesses that are permitted to resume operations will also be required to do so in a phased manner.
They will first need to prepare the workplace for a return to operations, followed by the return of employees in batches of no more than one-third.
Every business will also have to adhere to detailed health and safety protocols to protect their employees, and will have to implement workplace plans to enable disease surveillance and prevent the spread of infection.
Most restrictions will remain
When the country moves to level 4 after the lockdown ends on 1 May, the rules below will hold:
- South Africa’s borders will remain closed to international travel, except for the repatriation of South African nationals and foreign citizens.
- No travel will be allowed between provinces, except for the transportation of goods and exceptional circumstances such as funerals.
- Public transport will continue to operate, with limitations on the number of passengers and stringent hygiene requirements, including that all passengers must wear a face mask.
- The public is encouraged to stay at home, other than for essential personal movement, doing essential work and work in sectors that are under controlled opening.
- People can exercise under strict public health conditions.
- All gatherings, apart from funerals and for work, will remain prohibited.
- Those who are elderly, and those with underlying conditions, must remain at home and take additional precautions to isolate themselves.
- The sale of cigarettes will be permitted.
- The range of goods that may be sold will be extended to incorporate certain additional categories. These will be detailed by the relevant Ministers.
- It is important to note that several restrictions will remain in place regardless of the level of alert for as long as the risk of transmission is present:
- Bars and shebeens will remain closed.
- Conference and convention centres, entertainment venues, cinemas, theatres, and concerts will remain closed.
- Concerts, sporting events, and religious, cultural and social gatherings will not be allowed until it is deemed safe for them to continue.
5 alert levels
Ramaphosa gave basic guidelines about the 5 alert levels:
- Level 1 means that most normal activity can resume, with precautions and health guidelines followed at all times.
- Level 2 involves the further easing of restrictions, but the maintenance of physical distancing and restrictions on some leisure and social activities to prevent a resurgence of the virus.
- Level 3 involves the easing of some restrictions, including on work and social activities, to address a high risk of transmission.
- Level 4 means that some activity can be allowed to resume subject to extreme precautions required to limit community transmission and outbreaks.
- Level 5 means that drastic measures are required to contain the spread of the virus to save lives.
The image below provides an overview of the 5 levels.
How the alert system will work
The alert system is designed to allow the government to react quickly and change the level of restrictions based on how the rate of coronavirus infections in our country is progressing.
This, Ramaphosa said, is to ensures we ease restrictions as safely as possible.