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