South Africa’s Business for Ending Lockdown (B4EL) Campaign has welcomed the country’s move to a level 1 lockdown but has raised concerns around ‘unnecessary and harmful restrictions’ which continue to impact sectors of the economy.
“While Lockdown Level 1 is less economically restrictive than Level 2, we believe that remaining restrictions continue to damage key sectors of the economy and leave many businesses unable to operate at their full potential or create desperately needed employment,” it said.
“This has negative knock-on effects on other sectors whether or not they are permitted to operate fully.”
B4EL noted that the following restrictions were still in place and remain problematic:
- Limitations on international travel – International travel remains restricted and comes with strict health regulations for travellers which will curtail business travel and tourism;
- Restricted alcohol sale – Trade is still restricted on weekends, with sale at stores not allowed on Saturday or Sunday. The alcohol industry will be hampered by the restriction on weekend trade;
- Rules around gatherings – Gatherings and venues are still restricted to 50% capacity. The new rules also leave room for confusion, impose complex logistical restrictions, and remain prohibitive to religious gatherings and entertainment services;
- Curfew – The curfew is still in effect from 00h00 to 04h00. B4EL says the continuation of the curfew is ‘arbitrary’, restricts freedom of movement, and prohibits many nightlife and night-time services;
- The state of the disaster – The state of disaster remains, and gives effect to many of the restrictions. This opens up the possibility for further arbitrary policy decisions, with no indication from government when the extensions will end.
Many of the regulations and restrictions are expected to be laid out in more detail in the coming days.
Tracking and tracing app
In a national address on Wednesday evening (16 September), Ramaphosa said that government would also step up its contact tracing through the deployment of the Covid Alert South Africa mobile phone app and the Covid Connect WhatsApp platform.
“Effective testing and contact tracing systems will allow us to quickly identify and contain outbreaks before they spread further,” he said.
“I want to make a call this evening to everyone who has a smartphone in South Africa to download the Covid Alert mobile app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.”
Ramaphosa said that app has been zero-rated by mobile networks, so you can download it without any data costs.
“Using Bluetooth technology, the app will alert any user if they have been in close contact with any other user who has tested positive for coronavirus in the past 14 days.
“The app is completely anonymous, it does not gather any personal information, nor does it track anybody’s location.”
Ramaphosa said that the Department of Health has also developed WhatsApp and SMS systems for people without smartphones to provide them with test results and alert them to any possible exposure to the virus.
“Contact tracing is an important preventative measure to protect yourself and your close family and friends.,” he said.