Covid-19 lockdown: South Africa moves to level 3 from June 1

The restriction on the sale of tobacco products remains, however alcohol can be sold under certain conditions.

As from June 1, the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown alert level for South Africa will be lowered from level 4 to level 3, as announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in an address to the nation this evening (May 24).

This will see the opening up of the economy and the removal of a number of restrictions on the movement of people, while significantly expanding and intensifying public health interventions.

“Even as we move to alert level 3 it is important that we should be aware that there are a few parts of the country where the disease is concentrated and where infections continue to rise,” said President Ramaphosa.

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Level 3 will involve the return to operation of most sectors of the economy, subject to observance of strict health protocols and social distancing rules.

Some of the restrictions lifted are:

* People will be able to exercise at any time during the day, provided this is not done in groups.

* The curfew on the movement of people will be lifted.

* Alcohol may be sold for home consumption only, under strict conditions, on specified days and for limited hours.

* All manufacturing, mining, construction, financial services, professional and business services, information technology, communications, government services and media services will commence full re-opening.

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

* Other sectors that opened previously, such as agriculture and forestry, utilities, medical services, food production and manufacture of hygiene products will remain fully opened.

According to Mr Ramaphosa fruitful discussions have also been held with leaders of the interfaith religious community on their proposals for the partial opening of spiritual worship and counselling services subject to certain norms and standards.

Restrictions still in place are:

* The sale of tobacco products will remain prohibited due to the health risks associated with smoking.

* All gatherings will 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.

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

To ensure that social distancing is maintained, certain high-risk economic activities will remain prohibited. These include:

* 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.

Because of their vulnerability, staff who are older than 60 years of age and those who suffer from underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer should ideally stay at home.

Employees who can work from home should be allowed to do so. Also, those who do not need to go to work or to an educational institution should continue to stay at home. However, people will be able to leave their homes to buy goods or obtain services including medical care.

“One of the greatest challenges we will face with the move to level 3 – which will enable the return to work of up to 8 million people – will be the increased risk of transmission in public transport,” said President Ramaphosa.

He therefore called for a partnership between commuters, taxi and bus operators, business and government to keep people safe.

A number of businesses have also advised government that they are looking at how they can reduce congestion on public transport, including staggering working hours and providing transport for employees.

With regards to infections, there are a few parts of the country where the disease is concentrated and where infections continue to rise.

There will be a differentiated approach to deal with those areas that have far higher levels of infection and transmission.

These areas 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.

The following metros have been identified as coronavirus hotspots: Tshwane,  Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Ethekwini, Nelson Mandela Bay, Buffalo City and Cape Town.

The other areas that are hotspots are 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.

A full-time team of experienced personnel including epidemiologists, family practitioners, nurses, community health workers, public health experts and emergency medical services, to be supported by Cuban experts will be sent to each hotspot.

“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,” said Mr Ramaphosa.

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