Coronavirus lockdown

Get ready for a hellish two weeks: Here’s the lowdown on Advanced Level 3

A sign in Hackney is displayed on April 11, 2020 in London, England. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 100,000 lives and infecting over 1. 7 million people. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

As a second wave of Covid-19 hits the country and we are plunged into a harder lockdown, we answer your frequently asked questions on what you can and cannot do.

The Covid-19 second wave crashed like a tsunami into South Africa just as the country exhaled into the holiday’s annual festive season. As a cumulative one million people were tested and diagnosed this week, doctors, nurses and other health workers reported that the system risked being overwhelmed. 

In key metrics the second wave is higher than the first, with test rates climbing to one in three positives of swabs taken. The government acted last night (December 28) as President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an Advanced Level 3 lockdown as the wave becomes generalised and deaths rise.   

Here are your frequently asked questions following a Cabinet briefing led by Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Can I travel? Can I get home from the holidays?

You can travel internationally except to the countries that have banned South Africans after identifying the new Covid-19 variant (501Y.V2). You have to have a valid test (not older than 72 hours) showing you do not have Covid-19 and adhere to other restrictions in the country you are visiting. There is no restriction on interprovincial travel but you can’t travel during the curfew between 9pm and 6am. Curfews are used to make law enforcement easier, and you will need a permit as an essential-service worker to travel between these times.

Can I get together with family and friends?

This is very confusing. Dlamini-Zuma says no: When asked on December 29 she said all social gatherings, including family gatherings, are prohibited. According to the regulations, cinemas, theatres, casinos, museums, galleries, archives, gyms and fitness centres, restaurants, auctions and professional sports venues are allowed to have gatherings. These rules do not say you have to attend only with members of your immediate household. For venues that continue trading there is a limit of 50 guests inside and 100 outside, regardless, it seems, of the size of the venue. Gyms, for example, appear to have negotiated a Level 1 agreement where the number of members is based on the size of the facility, but now the general limit for indoor venues is 50 people. If it’s a small casino, museum, gallery or other place the size will determine how many people get in since it is likely to be fewer than 50. Best to call ahead and check.

What can’t I do?

A helluva lot.

The addendum to the regulations specifically excludes night vigils, after-funeral gatherings, social gatherings, nightclubs, bars, taverns, shebeens and similar establishments, along with beaches, dams, rivers and lakes in hotspots. Here’s the full list

Public parks, including public and recreational facilities, and public swimming pools are included here. You or a family member can’t be initiated or attend a post-initiation practice (such as imigidi) or attend a sporting event, although there are a few exemptions.

Can I drink?

Of course – anything non-alcoholic and only if you stocked up on alcohol or know your way around a fermented pineapple. Alcohol sales and on-site consumption sales are prohibited. Data show hospitals and clinics in hotspots are crowded with alcohol-related trauma cases when every bed and oxygen mask or ventilator is needed for Covid-19 patients.

This covers wineries, micro-manufacturers, wine farms and the like.

You can’t transport alcohol unless it is pure alcohol to produce sanitisers, disinfectants or soaps, for export purposes or from manufacturing plants to storage facilities, or from licensed premises for safekeeping. Police Minister Bheki Cele warned restaurants and cafés that he was onto dop being served in teapots, and advised owners to stick to rooibos tea or risk losing their licences.

In effect, alcohol sales are banned again, although there is a lacuna in the regulations about whether this also applies to licensed resorts or hotels or B&Bs.

What does mandatory masking mean for me?

Just wear the mask! If you want to know why the new law says:

“The wearing of a face mask is mandatory for every person when in a public place, and any person who fails to comply with a verbal instruction by an enforcement officer to wear a face mask commits an offence and is, on conviction, liable to a fine or a period of imprisonment not exceeding six months, or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said magistrates are meeting to set the fine amount. 

“If you don’t [wear a mask] you will definitely be arrested,” said Cele. And he means it – South Africa arrested more people than most other nations during the first hard lockdown. “Most of you will have criminal records. If you don’t respect this there will be consequences,” said the minister, who always sounds like he was born for a police state rather than a democracy. Someone, please tell the minister it’s a health emergency not a state of emergency.

This is the only time you are allowed not to wear a mask when you are outside your home:

“… a person who undertakes vigorous exercise in a public place, provided that the person maintains a distance of at least one and a half metres from any other person, and subject to directions on what is considered to be vigorous, issued by the Cabinet member responsible for health,” say the regulations.

Luckily, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize did not enter the arena of “roast-chicken and open-toed micro-management” and said he will leave the definition of “vigorous exercise” to you, although he added that a walk is probably not “vigorous exercise”. You have to do exercise physically strenuous enough to leave you a little breathless to take off your mask when outside your home. Otherwise, mask on.   

For the next two weeks, from December 29, you also may not go to a church, mosque, synagogue or temple or other religious gatherings, according to Dlamini Zuma. 

Can I be evicted if I don’t pay rent or have my home demolished?

No. But if your landlord is angry he or she can approach the Rental Housing Tribunal. The Red Ants cannot rip up your shack in the next two weeks.

What about the people who use public transport who must return from holiday or go back to work?

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula will have to issue directives to ensure this is done safely, with long-distance taxis and buses restricted to no more than 70% capacity. Trips under 200km can fill to 100% provided everybody on board is masked.

(Good luck with that – my investigative tally reveals zero masked taxi drivers spotted in 2020 so far.)

Airlines were packed to the rafters during the early holiday season (or you had to pay a king’s ransom to keep a free seat next to you), so Mbalula could issue directives about this too, although the regulations don’t say anything about planes and trains.

It’s going to a hellish two weeks – a suitable end to the unprecedented challenges of 2020 and a bumpy landing into 2021. By December 29, Mkhize reported there were 11,256 people in hospital with Covid-19, with 3,543 on oxygen and 604 on ventilators. He said the majority of South Africa’s districts are in Covid response phase, which is defined as an increase of 20% in cases compared with the previous seven days.

Advanced Level 3 applies for the next two weeks after which the national Coronavirus Command Council will review the Covid-19 status. It is now regarded as an exponential and exploding outbreak. DM


"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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All Comments 16

  • Our beloved Minister of Police in all likelihood worships at the altar of Erich Honecker and Erich Mielke, the notorious head of the East German STASI.

  • There is an unspoken dimension to all this. Government cannot implement and police rules logically (only on high risk groups), so they have to be PC and apply broad rules to the other ¾ of the population that were anyway behaving.

    • I suspect that the logic behind this is that no one will travel to come to a gym on the coast, and the problem of transporting the virus to and from the coast by holidaying folk is an issue.

  • Well, the South African version of the communist Politburo (called Command Council to differentiate themselves) has striked again….as Comrade Ramaphosa (nickname “Bull frog”) told 50 million law-abiding citizens that the Politburo will not hesitate to arrest (kill?) you. To ensure you follow the curfew, they decided to also switch off the lights from 10pm, with criminals (and the police, army?) free to roam, steal any available alcohol, and generally party throughout the night. At long last comrade Cele’s (nick name “Bald Eagle”) Life ambition is paying off….. To ensure those with the financial means does not have any chance of enjoying a well-deserved break, such as going to a park, or visiting the closest beach. Long live non-democracy

  • This post is legally incorrect, evictions can occur upon the granting of an order by a competent court. Sub-regulation 37(1) states:

    “37. (1) A person may not be evicted from his or her land or home or have his or her place of residence demolished for the duration of the national state of disaster unless a competent court has granted an order authorising the eviction or demolition.”

    The above sub-regulation is effectively a recitation of the law , with sub-regulation 37(2) providing for incidences in which an order for eviction or demolition may be stayed.

    It may be necessary for the above article to be corrected as it contains false or misleading information.

  • I am sitting in the ECape looking out over a river. Judging by the number of boats out, our people are on a fish diet.

    As per usual we are adapting and carrying on sensibly. Fortunately the authorities seem to be taking the sensible line with policing

  • A considerable number of family visitors to E Cape villages have canceled their holidays. So the working class community suffers without work and income at the annual peak season. Nice
    one Cyril!..

  • The usual blather from the clown Cele. Interesting to see how few people he has arrested for stealing the money assigned to combat Covid. Every time he opens his mouth he loses credibility to the point where his funny hats are the only thing taken seriously about him any more.

  • I’m struggling to separate fact from fiction. Usually the media are quick to sensationalise most disaster events, usually with shocking photos and videos to reinforce their report.
    Covid-19 somehow seems to be the exception.
    We very occasionally see a photo of a few “health workers” covered from head to toe in protective disposable suits around an empty bed, or around a single “patient” hooked up to a ventilator. I cannot recall seeing a single picture of a bed filled ward of patients or reports such as those that came out Europe where Ice-Rinks were commandeered to act as temporary mortuaries. I would have thought that such images would be used to reinforce how serious the situation is. Apart from “sensationalist” comments by a few govt ministers there does not seem to be evidence of a real pandemic. Am I completely illogical in my observations/comments?

    • Photograpers will have to risk entering such wards, disrupting health care workers doing their jobs, waste valuable and sophisticated PPE’S (which you need specialised instruction on how to apply) violate very sick persons’ privacy (their families are not allowed to enter). Do I need to spell it out more? Ask the staff at local hospitals. On second thoughts: don’t. They are tired and it is unethical for them to tell.

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