President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa will begin a gradual and phased recovery of economic activity from 30 April.
In a national address on Thursday evening (23 April), the president said a lockdown remains the best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but it cannot be sustained indefinitely.
“Beyond the 30th of April, we will begin a phased and gradual return to economic activity,” he said.
“There is still much that is unknown about the manner and the spread of the virus among the population,” he said. “Therefore the action taken now must be measured.”
To aid in this measured approach, the country will adopt a risk-adjusted strategy made up of five levels, that will determine the risk and infection rate nationally, and in each province, district and metropolitan area.
The approach has been guided by scientists and experts, who have warned that a sudden end to the lockdown will lead to a massive increase in the number of infections, the president said.
The levels, which denote the level of action needed to stop the spread of the virus, are as follows:
- Level 5 – drastic measures are required;
- Level 4 – some activity can be allowed, subject to extreme requirements;
- Level 3 – the easing on some restrictions on work and social activities;
- Level 2 – further easing of restrictions, but the maintenance of social distancing;
- Level 1 – most normal activity can resume, with caution and health guidelines followed at all times.
South Africa is currently in ‘level five’ of the lockdown, which is the strictest level government will introduce. The level will be reduced to ‘level four’ from Friday, 1 May.
“This means that some (economic) activity will be allowed subject to extreme precautions. Some business will be allowed to resume operations subject to strict conditions,” Ramaphosa said.
They will need to adhere to health and safety protocols. The president said that workplaces will need to develop a strategy around cleanliness.
He added that companies will have to develop strict plans for the return of their workforce – including a limitation on the amount of the workforce that is allowed to return. He said that all staff that can work remotely must be allowed to do so.
“Businesses will be encouraged to adopt a work-from-home strategy where possible,” Ramaphosa stressed.
The president said that government ministers will provide more information on the opening of schools and other institutions at a later date.
Restrictions under ‘level four’ of the lockdown include:
- The continued closure of borders;
- No travelling between provinces;
- People may exercise under strict conditions;
- All gathering aside from funerals and for work are prohibited;
- Those that are elderly and with underlying conditions must remain at home;
- The range of goods which may be sold will be expanded – including the sale of cigarettes;
- Bars and shebeens will remain closed;
- Conference and convention centres, entertainment venues, cinemas, theatres, and concerts will remain closed;
- Concerts, sporting events, and religious, cultural and social gatherings will not be allowed until it is deemed safe for them to continue.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize has confirmed that there are now 3,953 positive Covid-19 cases in South Africa, with the country experiencing its biggest daily climb in numbers to date.
This is up from 3,635 Covid-19 cases announced on Wednesday by the minister, meaning a rise of 318 cases over the past 24-hours.
According to Mkhize, while the large jump in numbers is concerning, it also comes as community screening and testing has ramped up significantly. So far, over 3.6 million people have been screened for the virus, with 24,174 sent for testing.
The total number of tests done to date are at 143,570, with total recoveries at 1,473.
The number of deaths has also increased, with 10 more people losing their lives to the virus, taking the total to 75.