Level 2, Unsealed & Unpacked

As restrictions ease, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma urges vigilance against second wave of Covid-19

By Greg Nicolson 18 August 2020

Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. (Photo: Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe)

Apart from a few economic and social activities deemed high risk, such as nightclubs, initiation practices, and visits to correctional facilities, most restrictions have been lifted under Level 2 of the Covid-19 lockdown. Future restrictions and the trajectory of the pandemic will largely be determined by adherence to health guidelines.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has warned South Africans to be more vigilant against Covid-19 as Level 2 of the lockdown came into effect at 12.01am on Tuesday 18 August, removing some of the most contentious restrictions on social visits and the sale of alcohol and tobacco products.

“It is our hope that in undertaking these activities we will maintain the strict protocols of social distancing, wearing of masks, sanitisation, and washing of hands. We must therefore exercise more caution and be more vigilant than before. It is our actions now that will determine our future,” said the minister after the regulations were gazetted on Monday.

Only a few economic activities are completely banned under Level 2 of the lockdown, including nightclubs, international flights for leisure, cruise ships, attending sports events as spectators and international sports events.

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Social activities that remain banned include initiation practices, visits to prisons and old age homes, and visiting patients at health facilities.

While much of the economy opened up under Level 3 of the lockdown, which was introduced under Level 5 in March and was seen as one of the harshest in the world, Level 2 eases restrictions on the beleaguered hospitality and tourism sectors and completely removes restrictions on the sale of tobacco products, which was challenged multiple times in court during Level 3.

“As we continue with our fight against the impact of the Covid-19 virus, we aim to limit hardship, and there is no desire to leave stringent prohibitions in place for longer than necessary,” said Dlamini Zuma while unpacking the new regulations in a press conference.

Liquor stores can now sell alcohol between 9am and 5pm from Monday to Thursday for off-site consumption, while restaurants and bars can sell alcohol every day of the week until the 10pm curfew.

Dlamini Zuma said the 10pm to 4am curfew remained as the resumption of alcohol sales could lead to increased trauma cases at hospitals due to violence and drinking and driving.

“To then just open completely stands a risk of the surge coming back and overwhelming the health service. That’s why it was agreed that we start slowly with Monday to Thursday, nine to five.”

She said the new restrictions were partly based on experiences in other countries and warned that “obviously, if things go wrong in what we have opened, we will have to reconsider”.

The minister defended the ban on the sale of tobacco products, which she said was aimed at freeing up resources in hospitals.

“But now that there are beds in hospitals, there are ICU beds, there are also ventilators that are adequate should more people need them. That’s why it had to be allowed and there are no restrictions,” she said, urging people not to share cigarettes.

Casinos can operate at a maximum of 50% of floor space, while accommodation and tour operators can resume at 50% capacity. All beaches and public parks, as well as museums, galleries and libraries, are also allowed to open.

As hospitals currently have sufficient capacity to cope with the number of patients requiring admission, the government has temporarily suspended the building of field hospitals and will redirect the funding to maintaining existing facilities.

Dlamini Zuma dismissed claims that she was responsible for the ban on cigarette sales, saying it was “disingenuous” to ascribe Cabinet decisions to an individual.

“I suppose some people find it easier to find a scapegoat. That’s part of life,” she said.

Many of the businesses allowed to reopen under Level 2 of the lockdown are either subject to a maximum of 50 people or 50% capacity. A maximum of 50 people are now allowed at bars, fitness centres, swimming pools, cinemas, theatres and live performances, which can all resume operating.

Casinos can operate at a maximum of 50% of floor space, while accommodation and tour operators can resume at 50% capacity. All beaches and public parks, as well as museums, galleries and libraries, are also allowed to open.

The government faced stern criticism for continuing to ban residential visits under Level 3 of the lockdown, which prevented people from seeing family and friends at their homes but allowed them to meet at places like restaurants. Social events at places of residence are now permitted, with a maximum of 10 visitors.

Questioned on how this would be enforced, Dlamini Zuma emphasised the shift from law enforcement agencies monitoring the regulations to the public taking responsibility for their own safety.

“I think it’s important to assume that the vast majority of South Africans are law-abiding citizens. They don’t need to be policed for every action,” she said.

Dlamini Zuma reiterated the need to implement health and safety protocols to prevent the further spread of Covid-19 as many restrictions are lifted.

“When we further open the economy the risks mount and could lead to a resurgence and a second wave,” she said.

“Even though we have eased restrictions, the risk is also increasing, for it is people who move the virus. We must act with vigilance to defeat the virus together, for we must soldier on and work together.” DM

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