Ramaphosa announces move to COVID-19 lockdown alert level 3

level 3
25 May 2020

Addressing South Africa last night, president Ramaphosa reiterated that the COVID-19 lockdown measures have served to slow the rate of infection and prevent health facilities from being overwhelmed.

He added that government used the “time during the lockdown to build up an extensive public health response and prepare our health system for the anticipated surge in infections”.

The president pointed out that government’s position was always that the lockdown would help to delay the spread of the virus but would not be able to stop it.

“Until there is a vaccine available to all, the coronavirus will continue to spread in our population. This means that we must get used to living with the coronavirus for some time to come.”

The president also declared that “should a vaccine be developed anywhere in the world it should be made freely and equitably available to citizens of all countries”.

He emphasized that despite the efficacy of the nationwide lockdown, it cannot be sustained indefinitely.

The president announced that cabinet has determined that the alert level for the whole country should be lowered from level 4 to level 3 with effect from 1 June 2020 thereby marking a significant shift in government’s approach to the pandemic.

“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.”

However, certain areas of the country where the disease is concentrated and where infections continue to rise, will be declared coronavirus hotspots.

“A hotspot is defined as an area that has more than 5 infected people per every 100,000 people or where new infections are increasing at a fast pace.”

Metros identified as coronavirus hotspots include Tshwane, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Ethekwini, Nelson Mandela Bay, Buffalo City and Cape Town.

Other hotspot areas include the West Coast, Overberg and Cape Winelands district municipalities in the Western Cape, Chris Hani district in the Eastern Cape, and iLembe district in KwaZulu-Natal.

The list of hotspot areas will be reviewed every two weeks depending on the progression of the virus.

Enhanced measures of surveillance, infection control and management will be put in place in hotspots including assigning a full-time team of experienced personnel to each hotspot.

Each hotspot will be linked to testing services, isolation facilities, quarantine facilities, treatment, hospital beds and contact tracing.

The president stressed that “should it be necessary, any part of the country could be returned to alert levels 4 or 5 if the spread of infection is not contained despite our interventions and there is a risk of our health facilities being overwhelmed”.

Some measures to be imposed during alert level 3 include:

  • Leaving homes to buy goods or obtain services including medical care to be allowed.
  • Exercise at any time during the day, provided this is not done in groups.
  • Curfew on the movement of people to be lifted.
  • Alcohol to be sold for home consumption only under strict conditions, on specified days and for limited hours.
  • Sale of tobacco products to remain prohibited in alert level 3 due to health risks associated with smoking.
  • All gatherings to remain prohibited, except for funerals with no more than 50 people or meetings in the workplace for work purposes.
  • Any place open to the public where cultural, sporting, entertainment, recreational, exhibitional, organisational or similar activities may take place will remain closed.
  • Sector protocols to be finalised requiring every company to develop a workplace plan before they re-open.
  • Companies to put in place sanitary and social distancing measures and facilities; to screen workers on arrival each day, quarantine those who may be infected and make arrangements for them to be tested.
  • All staff older than 60 years of age and those who suffer from underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer to ideally stay at home.
    • Employees who can work from home should be allowed to do so.

The president announced that all manufacturing, mining, construction, financial services, professional and business services, information technology, communications, government services and media services will start full reopening from 1 June.

The wholesale and retail trade will be fully opened, including stores, spaza shops and informal traders. E-commerce will continue to remain open.

However, certain high-risk economic activities will remain prohibited including:

  • Restaurants, bars and taverns, except for delivery or collection of food.
  • Accommodation and domestic air travel, except for business travel, which will be phased in on dates to be announced.
  • Conferences, events, entertainment and sporting activities.
  • Personal care services, including hairdressing and beauty services.

National borders will remain closed except for the transport of goods and repatriation of nationals.

In terms of schools, the president also confirmed that classes for grades 7 and 12 learners will resume from 1 June.

As regards tertiary education, as from 1 June, all “public universities are expected to implement remote teaching and learning strategies to ensure that all students are given a fair opportunity to complete the 2020 academic year”.

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(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
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