On Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the whole country will be moved to Alert Level 3 of the national lockdown on June 1st.
This will bring much more freedom to citizens: curfews will be dropped, exercise will be allowed at any time, and alcohol sales by liquor stores (though not bars) will be permitted. Domestic air travel for business reasons will be allowed too, and more air travel will be phased in on dates to be announced.
All manufacturing, mining, construction, financial services, professional and business services, information technology, communications, government services, and media services can be fully reopened from June 1, Ramaphosa said. Wholesale and retail trade will be fully opened, including stores, spaza shops and informal traders.
But many businesses will not be allowed to trade, including:
- Hairdressers and beauty salons
- Restaurants – apart from providing takeaways
- Bars, taverns, and shebeens, as well as night clubs and casinos
- Hotels, lodges and other accommodation facilities (but certain guests will be allowed)
- Gyms and sport facilities
- Exhibit and conference centres
- Flea markets and bazaars
For now, churches will also have to remain closed. But Ramaphosa said that proposals for the partial opening of “spiritual worship” – subject to certain norms and standards – are being considered.
All gatherings will remain prohibited, except for funerals with no more than 50 people or meetings in the workplace for work purposes.
For businesses that can return to work, Ramaphosa added that where possible, employees should work from home and companies will have to adhere to strict control measures. All staff who are older than 60 years of age and those who suffer from underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer should stay at home.
Earlier plans for differentiated lockdown levels for different parts of the country had seemed to suggest that places such as Cape Town may remain on Level 4 while the rest of South Africa steps down to Level 3. But on Sunday Ramaphosa said that places with severe coronavirus crises may be stepped back up a level (or two) instead.
“Should it be necessary, any part of the country could be returned to alert levels four or five if the spread of infection is not contained despite our interventions and there is a risk of our health facilities being overwhelmed,”he said.
Ramaphosa had faced considerable pressure to move the country down to Level 3 before the end of May, and leaked draft regulations suggested such a move had been possible days ago. However, discussions within government on just how restrictions should be relaxed had, reportedly, been lively.