President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa’s level 3 lockdown regulations will be relaxed to allow a number of businesses to reopen.
In a national address this week, the president said that restrictions will be eased for:
- Restaurants – allowing for sit-down meals;
- Accredited and licensed accommodation facilities (except Airbnb);
- Conferences and meetings for business purposes (in-line with safety guidelines);
- Cinemas and theatres;
- Personal care services including hairdressers;
- Non-contact sports including tennis, golf, cricket and others;
- Contact sports – only for training.
Minister of Small Business and Development Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has referred to these changes as an ‘advanced level 3 lockdown’, meaning that while some areas will see relaxations, the country’s general lockdown level 3 rules will apply.
However, some commenters have pointed out that the move to level 3 on 1 June was a big departure from the initial alert level guidelines provided by the government.
When Ramaphosa unveiled the new 5-level alert system, it was accompanied by a Draft Framework for Sectors document which provided an overview of which services will be allowed at the five levels.
Government has since deviated significantly from these guidelines and South Africans are now able to do many things which were originally proposed as part of a move to levels 1 and 2.
— South African Government (@GovernmentZA) June 19, 2020
Open, but with restrictions
While lockdown level 3 has opened large parts of the economy and educational facilities – these still have restrictions tied to them, such as being restricted to 50 people, or needing strict screening processes.
Schools have opened up, but the return of all school learners is being staggered. Some grades are only scheduled to return in July and August; and at universities specific degrees are being given preference.
While South Africans are currently allowed to use air travel domestically – they may only do so for purposes of business, while Airbnb properties remain closed. Inter-provincial travel is still restricted to business only, with the need for permits.
Similarly, sit-down restaurants will soon be allowed to reopen (subject to new regulations) but they are still prohibited from selling alcohol for onsite consumption. Other restrictions tied to the ‘advanced’ lockdown level 3 are still to be detailed.
Government has also indicated that while a number of non-contact sports will be allowed to resume under the revised regulations, gyms and fitness centres will remain closed.
This begs the question – what is left for government to ‘open up’ at lockdown levels 2 or level 1?
The most notable restriction that is still in place is the continued prohibition on the sale of tobacco products.
The ban on the sale of cigarettes has been the subject of legal action this week, with the North Gauteng High Court expected to rule on the issue in the coming days.
Speaking in parliament on Thursday, Ramaphosa said that the decision to promulgate the Disaster Management Regulations – including regulation 27, which prohibits the sale of tobacco products, e-cigarettes and related products – was taken after careful consideration.
Minister in the presidency, Jackson Mthembu, previously indicated that he does not foresee the restriction being in place at lockdown level 2 – but there has been no indication from government around when these restrictions will be lifted.
Areas that remain firmly closed are:
- The sale of tobacco products;
- Social visits between family members;
- The country’s borders for international travel and provincial travel for leisure;
- Large parts of the events industry – including nightclubs and concerts, and exhibitions.
- Sporting events with spectators;