On Sunday, May 24, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa will be entering level 3 of lockdown on June 1. Although many can look forward to exercising outside at any time of day and the booze ban being lifted, the risk of COVID-19 is far from over.
“The Cabinet has determined that the alert level for the whole country should be lowered from level 4 to level 3 with effect from 1 June 2020,” Ramaphosa said in his address to the nation. “The implementation of alert level 3 from the beginning of June will involve the return to operation of most sectors of the economy, subject to observance of strict health protocols and social distancing rules.”
Although more employees are allowed into the workplace, the president encouraged businesses to allow those who can work from home to continue doing so. This also includes people over 60, with compromised immune systems or with an underlying disease.
“We are therefore asking that those who do not need to go to work or to an educational institution continue to stay at home,” Ramaphosa said.
New restrictions under level 3 lockdown
Among the revised restrictions is the lift on curfews. It will be possible to exercise outside at any time of the day as long as this is not done in groups. Alcohol sales will also be allowed under strict conditions, while tobacco products are still banned.
“All gatherings will remain prohibited, except for funerals with no more than 50 people or meetings in the workplace for work purposes,” the president announced on Sunday. “Any place open to the public where cultural, sporting, entertainment, recreational, exhibition, organisational or similar activities may take place will remain closed.”
He further noted that food delivery or collection from restaurants are allowed along with air travel for businesses purposes.
Schools and universities will reopen, but students will not be forced to return. Tertiary institutions will need to provide remote learning.
Address the public transport dilemma
“One of the greatest challenges we will face with the move to level 3, which will enable the return to work of up to eight million people, will be the increased risk of transmission in public transport,” Ramaphose stated in his address.
The government is putting measures in place to prevent this transmission. Commuters, for example, will have to wear a mask, wash their hands before and after travel, avoid touching their face during their commute and keeping a safe distance. Bus and taxi operators are required to regularly sanitise their vehicles.
“Our national borders will remain closed except for the transport of goods and repatriation of nationals,” Ramaphosa added.
Threat of COVID-19 remains
“I want to emphasise that the easing of some restrictions does not mean that the threat posed by the coronavirus has passed or that our fight against the disease is over,” the president stated on Sunday.
The lockdown has allowed the government to prepare the healthcare system for the anticipated surge of infections. As lockdown restrictions are eased, the rate and risk of infection will increase.
“As we enter the next phase of our struggle against the coronavirus, it is once again your actions that will determine the fate of our nation,” Ramaphosa said. “We know that the most effective defense against this virus is also the simplest.
“Washing our hands regularly, wearing a face mask, keeping at leasta1.5 metre distance from other people, avoiding touching our faces with unwashed hands and cleaning surfaces we touch regularly,” he concluded.