On Friday May 1, South Africa will enter a new phase of the Covid-19 coronavirus national lockdown – Level 4. Spotlight explains the different levels of lockdown and answers some questions surrounding what is allowed under the new regulations.
On April 23, President Cyril Ramaphosa introduced a new phase in the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic – the risk-adjusted strategy. Under this strategy, the lockdown that has been in place since March 27 will be eased in stages.
“We will implement what we call a risk-adjusted strategy through which we take a deliberate and cautious approach to the easing of current lockdown restrictions,” Ramaphosa said last week.
“We developed an approach that determines the measures we should have in place based on the direction of the pandemic in our country. As part of this approach there will be five coronavirus levels,” the president explained.
Drastic measures, full lockdown (Level 5)
So far, the lockdown experienced by South Africans has been the highest level – Level 5. This level, according to Ramaphosa, means “that drastic measures are required to contain the spread of the virus to save lives”.
Further information on what the levels mean was later provided by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma during a press briefing on Wednesday. In her presentation, Level 5 was characterised by the virus spreading at a high rate and a healthcare system that is not prepared for it.
So what has changed?
Some activity, with extreme precautions
“Level 4 means that some activity can be allowed to resume, subject to extreme precautions required to limit community transmission and outbreaks,” Ramaphosa explained.
Dlamini-Zuma described this level as when the virus is spreading at a moderate to high rate with the healthcare system having little to moderate readiness.
Simply put, this means that the virus is spreading rapidly and infecting a large number of people – more than what the healthcare system will be able to handle.
Easing up on restrictions, but not by much
“Level 3 involves the easing of some restrictions, including on work and social activities,” the president explained.
However, many workplace and social activities will still be restricted in order to address the high risk of infection. Dlamini-Zuma explained this level as when there is “moderate virus spread with moderate readiness”.
Fewer restrictions, but with physical distancing
“Level 2 involves the further easing of restrictions, but the maintenance of physical distancing and restrictions on some leisure and social activities to prevent a resurgence of the virus.”
Dlamini-Zuma’s presentation showed the healthcare system as being better prepared to handle Covid-19 infections under this level, with the virus spreading slower than before.
Almost normal, except for the precautions
“Level 1 means that most normal activities can resume with precautions and health guidelines followed at all times,” Ramaphosa said.
At this level, the rate at which the virus is spreading will be much lower and the healthcare system will have a high level of readiness, Dlamini-Zuma said.
According to Ramaphosa, the National Coronavirus Command Council will determine when the country can move to a lower level.
13 questions and answers about Level 4
As South Africans prepare for Level 5 to end, many questions may arise about how Level 4 will be different. The regulations that will be in place during Level 4 were announced on Wednesday evening by Dlamini-Zuma.
It is important to note that Dlamini-Zuma, during a previous press conference, made it clear that the country can go back to Level 5 if the Covid-19 infections increase drastically.
1. Will life go back to normal on May 1?
In short, the answer is no. On Friday, South Africa’s lockdown will not be lifted, it will only go down by one notch – to Level 4.
Under Level 4, only certain industries may reopen and some workers will be allowed to go back to work. People may buy more goods than before, but movement is still highly limited. It is by no means a return to normal.
2. Will divorced parents be able to move their children?
According to Dlamini-Zuma, divorced parents who share custody of their child or children can move them between the two households. The regulations provide for the circumstances under which this could take place.
The child can be moved between households if both the parents or caregivers stay in the same metropolitan areas or district municipality, and have either a “court order, parental responsibilities and rights agreement, or parental plan, registered with the family advocate”.
If neither of these is available, then the regulations make provision for the use of a permit issued by a magistrate which can be found in the regulations.
If the parents or caregivers live in different provinces or metropolitan areas, they can only move the child if a magistrate issues them with the correct permit (found in the regulations).
3. Can I go for a run?
Yes, but it will be subject to certain rules. According to Dlamini-Zuma running, cycling and walking is allowed, just not in groups. These activities will only be allowed between 6am and 9am and only within a 5km radius of your home.
4. Will our movements still be restricted?
Yes, except for people allowed to return to work. Dlamini-Zuma called for people to remain in their homes, except when they need to buy essential groceries or medication, to seek medical care, or exercise between 6am and 9am.
She also announced a 8pm-5am curfew.
“When you come back from work, you have to be at home … between 8pm and 5am. If you don’t have a permit to be out, you cannot be outside,” she said.
5. Can I return to work as normal?
This depends, as not everyone will go back to work on Friday. According to Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel, some industries may reopen under Level 4, and some employees will be able to go back to work.
However, several industries will only open at a limited capacity. The regulations also requested that everyone who can work from home should do so.
A full list of the industries that will be reopening under Level 4 can be found on the Covid-19 online resource portal. The list is also available in the regulations.
For those who will return to work, their workplaces will have to comply with the safety measures required by the new regulations. The regulations state that all workplaces must have a plan that is in line with the regulations before their workers return.
This plan must contain the list of employees who may return to work, how workers will be phased-in into the workplace (including those who need to return from other provinces), the health protocols that will be in place and the details of the Covid-19 compliance officer meant to oversee the plan.
6. Do I still need to wear a mask when I go outside?
Yes, under Level 4, according to the regulations, everyone must wear a cloth mask (or other handmade items) over their mouths and noses when in public.
7. Can I visit my friends or family?
No. Social visits are still not allowed under Level 4.
8. Will I be able to buy warmer clothes for winter?
Yes, the regulations provide for the production and sale of winter clothes and blankets, bedding and heaters under Level 4.
9. Will I be able to travel to another province?
The regulations state that people cannot travel between provinces, except for funerals (which require a signed affidavit provided in the regulations), or if they need to travel across provinces to return to work (provided they have the right permit).
Dlamini-Zuma also explained that allowance will be made for a “once-off” movement of workers (who are allowed to work under Level 4) between provinces, if those workers are currently located in one province but work in another province. She did not provide much clarity on when this will be allowed, except that it can only occur from Friday.
10. Will restaurants be open?
Yes, but only for deliveries (between 9am and 7pm) that will be delivered to people’s homes. According to the regulations, sit-down meals or collecting takeaways from the restaurants will not be allowed.
11. Will cigarettes and alcohol be for sale?
No. The sale of alcohol will not be allowed under Level 4, and after giving South Africans hope last week in the draft regulations, government back tracked on its decision to allow for the sale of cigarettes.
12. Will students and scholars be able to buy stationery?
Yes. The production and sale of stationery will be allowed. According to Patel, shops that sell stationery and educational materials will be reopened.
13. I need to buy a new laptop, will I be able to do that?
Yes, under Level 4, the sale of laptops and other office equipment will be allowed. The regulations state the sale of “information and communications technology equipment, including computers, mobile telephones and other home office equipment” is allowed.
* This article was produced by Spotlight – health journalism in the public interest.
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