South Africa could move to level 1 lockdown next week, when president Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation as promised during a recent meeting with the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef).
Citing senior officials, who are privy to meetings at the National Coronavirus Command Council, City Press reported that the move to the lowest lockdown level could happen within the ‘next week or two’, with an announcement imminent.
According to the officials, lockdown level 1 will see further easing of restrictions, although some measures will still remain in place. The expected changes include:
Adjusting limits on gatherings, such as church services, by instead increasing it to a percentage of capacity (ie, 50% of a venue’s capacity instead of 50 people);
Opening up international borders, but only regionally to the rest of Africa;
International travel to Europe and other destinations with a resurgence in Covid-19 infections are still seen as too high-risk, and re-importing the virus is a concern;
Social distancing, mask wearing, and hygiene protocols will remain in place.
The government has received proposals and presentations from several sectors which remain under strain due to lockdown conditions, including the events industry, hotels and tourism, sporting groups and religious groups.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize this week said that South Africa will need to move to a level 1 lockdown and a return to ‘normal activities’ as part of its economic recovery.
In an interview with Radio Islam on Wednesday (9 September), Dr Mkhize said that his department was initially worried about a possible surge in cases when moving to a level 2 lockdown, but early data shows there has not been a major upsurge in cases.
“We hope that we can still contain the numbers. The past two weeks have been very encouraging with no upsurge, which we hope (will remain the case) if we go to the next level lower.”
Mkhize said that the country will still need to follow major measures around gatherings. However, he said that there was a need to further reopen the economy and get people back to work.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, meanwhile, told Sanef that he will address the nation this coming week, presenting the outcomes of discussions with the various industries.
“We are considering all of that as we do an evaluation of where the infection rate is. We will be able to give consideration to all of these proposals and get advice.
“This is where we will need advice from the Medical Advisory Committee as well as from our Natjoints which is the real engine of monitoring our coronavirus approach. So we will be giving consideration to all that.”
“Watch this space next week (as to) where we end up as a nation in as far as this is concerned,” he said.
Under the current level 2 lockdown rules, there are still several prohibitions and restrictions in place, which could be changed under lockdown level 1.
These prohibitions include:
International passenger air travel for leisure purposes;
Passenger ships for international leisure purposes;
Attendance of any sporting event by spectators;
International sports events;
Exclusions relating to public transport services: this
relates to long-distance public transport (busses and taxis) being only allowed to operate at 70% capacity;
Exclusions relating to education services: currently this relates to grades which are yet to return, and certain university classes;
Limits on gatherings (social, 10 people; other, 50 people);
Curfew from 22h00 to 04h00.