President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in an address to the nation on Sunday night that there will be a significant relaxation of lockdown regulations on Monday, 1 June – but tobacco products remain banned.
The whole of South Africa will move to level-3 of the lockdown on 1 June, though various hotspots – including Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal (iLembe municipality), have been identified as coronavirus “hotspots”. The president warned these areas could be moved back to level 4 or 5 if the situation deteriorates.
Ramaphosa said South Africa has about 11 000 active Covid-19 cases, with 842 patients hospitalised and 128 in intensive care. “We are in a much better position than many other countries at this stage in the progression of the disease,” he said. The country has conducted 580 000 coronavirus tests and 12 million screenings.
But he said that a third of cumulative cases were recorded in the last week alone. “These numbers will rise faster,” the president said, adding: “The coronavirus pandemic in South Africa is going to get much worse before it gets better.”
The move to level 3 on 1 June “will result in the opening up of the economy”, but, he said, “even as we move to alert level 3, there are a few parts of our country where the disease is concentrated and where infections continue to rise. We will have a differentiated approach to deal with these areas…”
Other than the main cities, these hotspots include the West Coast, Overberg and Winelands municipalities in the Western Cape, Chris Hani municipality in the rural Eastern Cape and the KwaZulu-Natal south coast. Ramaphosa said government is “particularly concerned” about Cape Town and the broader Western Cape region, which will be dealt with “as a matter of urgency”.
The list of hotspot areas will be reviewed every two weeks, he said. Teams will be deployed to each of these hotspots, including Cuban doctors who were controversially brought into the country to help fight the pandemic.
“Should it be necessary, any part of the country could be returned to alert levels 4 or 5 if the spread is not contained despite our interventions. In time, through our efforts, it will be possible, and we are aiming for this, to place areas where infections are low to levels 2 and 1.”
Most industries will be allowed to work, with a few exceptions, including the conferencing industry and restaurants, bars and taverns. “We are asking that those who do not need to go to work or go to an educational institution stay at home,” the president said.
The national night-time curfew will be lifted on 1 June and people will be able to exercise whenever they like “during the day”, providing they don’t do so in groups. Alcohol will be sold for home consumption “only under strict conditions and limited hours”.
“The sale of tobacco products will remain prohibited in alert level 3 due to the health risks associated with smoking,” Ramaphosa said. This decision is likely to prove highly controversial.
Companies will need to develop a workplace plan before they resume operations. They will need to screen workers on arrival each day and quarantine workers who may be infected. They must assist with contact tracing if employees test positive. All staff older than 60 and those who suffer from underlying conditions “should ideally stay at home”. Employees who can work at home should be allowed to do so, he said.
National borders will remain closed except for the importation and exportation of goods and the repatriation of individuals.
Schools will resume classes for grades 7 and 12 from 1 June. “Strict infection control measures and, where necessary, additional water and sanitation infrastructure are being put in place…”
The school calendar will be revised “so we can still recover the 2020 school year”.
No parent will be forced to send their children to school if they are worried about safety. — © 2020 NewsCentral Media