An expected eight million people will return to work on 1 June when the country implements Level 3 of the Covid-19 lockdown. The virus continues to spread rapidly, but responsibility for preventing the spread of the pandemic will now largely shift to individuals, communities and employers.
Here’s what you need to know about the Level 3 regulations, released by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma during a media briefing on Thursday.
“This is the most significant reopening of the economy since the lockdown began some 63 days ago and it opens up all of our core productive sectors,” said Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel on Thursday.
“If Level 5 and to some extent Level 4 was based on detailed regulations that were directed at having as many people at home as possible, Level 3 instead is based on having most South Africans being at work. That’s the big shift in Level 3.”
The regulations list sectors that cannot resume: on-site consumption of food and beverages, domestic air travel and accommodation for leisure, conferences and events, personal care services such as hairdressing and beauty treatments, tourist attractions, casinos, nightclubs and entertainment activities.
Restaurants, bars and liquor stores can open for the sale of food and alcohol, both of which must be consumed off-site.
There’s considerable risk that the virus will spread in the workplace, and businesses must take precautions to protect employees. Most of the precautions listed are common-sense and relate to implementing health protocols and social distancing measures. Ensuring compliance, however, may be difficult.
While people who are over the age of 60 years and those who have comorbidities are encouraged to work from home, employers must take precautions to protect them if they have to go to work.
Businesses with more than 100 employees must try to reduce the number of employees at the workplace at any given time through shift rotations and staggered working hours.
Large companies with more than 500 employees, such as in the construction and manufacturing sectors, must provide transport for employees or, if that isn’t possible, consider staggered shifts. They must screen workers for Covid-19 daily, refer workers with symptoms for testing and submit data on screening and testing to the department of health.
All businesses must appoint Covid-19 compliance officers to oversee the implementation of prevention measures.
Movement is still limited. People can travel to and from work, to buy permitted goods and services, exercise and attend places of worship. Exercise is allowed between 6am and 6pm although not in groups or at gyms and sports grounds. Public parks and beaches will remain closed.
The regulations state that with the proper documentation, people can move between provinces, metros and districts for various reasons, including to work, to move to a new home, care for a relative, go to school, attend a funeral and obtain medical treatment.
Parents with existing court orders or parental rights agreements can move children within the same municipalities or districts, but require a magistrate’s approval to move them between different provinces and municipalities.
Anyone going to work, or in a public space or on public transport must wear a mask. Basically, wear a mask whenever you leave home.
Gatherings largely remain banned, but the regulations introduce changes in the workplace, at places of worship and for professional non-contact sports.
“Workplace gatherings for work purposes will be permitted under strict conditions and the observance of health, hygiene and social distancing protocols. Employers must ensure that the 1.5 metres distance is maintained amongst employees,” said Dlamini Zuma.
President Cyril Ramaphosa this week announced that recognised places of worship can hold services for up to 50 people during Level 3.
“Nobody is forced to go to church. The government has just opened an option and there are very strict and stringent measures that have to be followed when people go to church,” said Dlamini Zuma on criticism that opening up places of worship would promote the spread of Covid-19.s
Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu said faith-based leaders had argued that they were already holding funerals for up to 50 people so they should be allowed to hold regular services and had committed to implementing precautions.
“We believe all these measures really mitigate against the contracting of coronavirus in our churches, in our synagogues and in our mosques,” he said.
The regulations also allow for gatherings at professional non-contact sports matches, permitting players, officials, journalists, medical staff and the media to attend “as per directions issued by the Cabinet member responsible for sport”. Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa is expected to explain more this week.
Booze is back
During Level 3, businesses with a liquor licence, including bottle stores, restaurants, bars, taverns and e-commerce sites can sell alcohol between 9am and 5pm from Monday to Thursday. Alcohol can only be consumed off-site. It can be transported from 29 May as traders prepare to open their doors.
“To make that a bit more practical it would allow taverns and registered shebeens and so on to also sell alcohol but subject to the condition it must be in a sealed container and the consumer must take it away from those premises in order to consume it at home,” said Patel.
Alcohol sales were banned during Levels 4 and 5 of the lockdown to reduce related injuries and free up hospital trauma units as well as avoid situations where people lose their inhibitions and violate safety guidelines.
It’s unclear what’s changed, but Patel said liquor associations have assured the government they will implement measures to encourage responsible drinking and avoid activities that could burden trauma units.
The ban on the sale of tobacco products continues and Dlamini Zuma and Mthembu dismissed most questions on the issue on Thursday because the matter is in court.
Precautions are more important than ever
When Ramaphosa announced the shift to Level 3, he warned that the risk of a massive increase in infections is now greater than ever.
Dlamini Zuma on Thursday said, “We must remain conscious of the ever-present danger that we can quickly reverse our gains if we act too hastily and irresponsibly. To this end, the operating sectors of our economy must pay attention to strict, health, hygiene and social distancing measures.”
Levels 4 or 5 might return
Harsher limitations may return in the future.
Dlamini Zuma, on the recommendation of the health minister and in consultation with Cabinet, must determine national, provincial, metropolitan and district alert levels and Covid-19 hotspots.
Levels will be determined by looking at the proportion of active cases in the population and rate of increase, the availability of hospital beds and other relevant factors.
While resources are targeted at preventing the spread of the disease in hotspots, Dlamini Zuma said, “In the event that our collective efforts bear little or no fruits, such an area will require added efforts including subjecting it to higher level restrictions including the limiting of movements within and to and from a hotspot.”
Further details on the Level 3 regulations are expected to be revealed over the weekend as ministers brief the media on their specific portfolios. DM