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COVID-19 Nationwide Lockdown to be Eased in May

April 24, 2020

The Presidency

Addressing the nation last night, president Ramaphosa declared that the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown imposed at the end of March has been working.

“By delaying the spread of the virus, we have had time to prepare our health facilities and mobilise some of the essential medical supplies needed to meet the inevitable increase in infections,” he said.

In conjunction with other measures such as closing the borders and the changes in behavior that people have made, the lockdown has slowed the progression of the pandemic in South Africa.

However, the president pointed out that, despite a nationwide lockdown being the most effective means to contain the spread of the coronavirus, it cannot be sustained indefinitely.

“Our people need to eat. They need to earn a living. Companies need to be able to produce and to trade, they need to generate revenue and keep their employees in employment.”

Consequently, government has decided to implement a gradual and phased recovery of economic activity from 1 May 2020.

‘We will implement a risk adjusted strategy through which we take a deliberate and cautious approach to the easing of current lockdown restrictions.’

Five coronavirus levels will be put in place:

• Level 5 means that drastic measures are required to contain the spread of the virus to save lives.
• Level 4 means that some activity can be allowed to resume subject to extreme precautions required to limit community transmission and outbreaks.
• Level 3 involves the easing of some restrictions, including on work and social activities, to address a high risk of transmission.
• 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 1 means that most normal activity can resume, with precautions and health guidelines followed at all times.

A national level and separate levels for each province, district and metro in the country will also be imposed.

According to the president, the “National Coronavirus Command Council will determine the alert level based on an assessment of the infection rate and the capacity of our health system to provide care to those who need it”.

Briefings on the classification of industries and how each is affected at each level will be delivered by relevant ministers.

“We will give all industry bodies an opportunity to consider these details and, should they wish, to make submissions before new regulations are gazetted.”

As from 1 May, the national coronavirus alert level will be lowered from level 5 to level 4.

Some businesses will be allowed to resume operations under specific conditions.

“Every business will have to adhere to detailed health and safety protocols to protect their employees, and workplace plans will be put in place to enable disease surveillance and prevent the spread of infection.”

Businesses will be encouraged to adopt a work-from-home strategy where possible and all staff who can work remotely must be allowed to do so.

Relevant ministers will also provide details on the process for the phased re-opening of schools and other educational institutions.

Some conditions that will be in place during level 4 include:

• Borders to remain closed to international travel, except for the repatriation of South African nationals and foreign citizens.
• No travel between provinces, except for the transportation of goods and exceptional circumstances such as funerals.
• Public transport to operate, with limitations on the number of passengers and stringent hygiene requirements, including that all passengers must wear a face mask.
• Public will be 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.
• The elderly, and those with underlying conditions, to remain at home and take additional precautions to isolate themselves.
• Cigarettes will be allowed to be sold.

Goods that can be sold will be extended to incorporate certain additional categories.

Relevant minister will provide details on the extensions.

However, the president confirmed that, as long as the risk of transmission is present and regardless of the level of alert, bars and shebeens will remain closed; conference and convention centres, entertainment venues, cinemas, theatres, and concerts will remain closed and concerts, sporting events, and religious, cultural and social gatherings will not be allowed until it is deemed safe for them to continue.

The president called on all South Africans, as from 1 May, to wear a face mask whenever they leave home.