The President announced when Level 1 of the National Lockdown will commence as well as which regulations will change and to the benefit of many South Africans, eased.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Minister, went into detail about the new regulations following the President's address this week. This address saw the announcement that the country is set to move to Level 1 at midnight on Sunday.
However, the Minister warned that the country is not out of the woods yet.
Government also made changes to the curfew which is now set between 00h00 and 04h00. Many have said the curfew seems unnecessary, however, Dlamini-Zuma said, “They had to be home by 22:00 but now it has increased, they have to be home by midnight so you can see its a gradual opening so that we don’t do it in a bang and find that there are unforeseen problems like we have learnt in the past.”
“We still have 2 000 or more new cases a day and we know that if people have been sitting in a tavern or restaurant, you don’t want people to sit there for hours and hours. People once they start drinking, getting drunk, they forget their mask, they forget social distancing, it becomes chaos,” she explained further.
According to the Minister, funerals can now have 100 people, up from the 50 allowed under Level 2. However, night vigils are still prohibited. Religious gatherings are now also allowed to see hundreds of worshippers in attendance.
“If your venue is small and cannot take a 100 people at 1.5 metres apart, then you must use half the capacity of the venue,” she explained. Health protocols such as the washing of hands, sanitising and wearing of masks still apply.
“We know that funerals are super-spreaders because of the activities at the funerals, where people are singing, consoling one another. It means the chance of spreading the virus is higher,” the Minister said.
Also, the wearing of masks remains a non-negotiable. “If you leave your house, you wear a mask. When you enter the building, the owner of the building should ensure you wear a mask. That is a must,” she explained.
Meanwhile, churches will be allowed to accommodate a maximum of 250 congregants no matter how big the venue is. “If your venue can’t allow for social distancing, then you cannot have 250 people. You have to have less or half the size of the venue."
According to the Minister, this goes for other social gatherings too, such as weddings.
For outdoor gatherings, you cannot have more than 500 people, while gyms are now allowed to have 50% of the capacity of the venue.
Night vigils, night clubs, initiation schools, passenger ships for international leisure, sport spectators, amongst others, are still not allowed.
Eighteen land borders that were only opened for cargo will now open for everything. However, the 35 land borders that were closed will remain closed.
Dlamini-Zuma recognised that the past six months under the lockdown - aimed at reducing and mitigating the risk of the dangerous Coronavirus - have been difficult and testing. She said, “It has changed our lives forever and probably reversed the economic and social gains we have registered as a democratic South Africa.”
While the country is opening for more economic activity, Dlamini-Zuma warned against complacency even though the rate of infections is increasing.
“The virus has the feature of being silent, but very efficient... It also loves crowds…” she cautioned.
She said the country was “slowly departing from the eye of the storm of COVID-19” and that is why government is easing restrictions and increasing economic activity. However, the "virus remains a threat" as more people will be out and about, Dlamini-Zuma told the media.
SANews reported, "The country is in it for the long haul and efforts need to be redoubled to avoid the further spread of the deadly virus that has claimed almost 16 000 lives."
The Minister thanked citizens for their collective efforts and the sacrifices made it possible for the country to move to level 1.
“By observing the health and hygienic protocols we have ensured that our limited health capacity is efficiently used and is sufficient to all those who needed care. By following the regulations, we had to adjust our approach from time to time to respond to this virus and it has enabled us to make this progress thus far as a nation,” she added.
— South African Government (@GovernmentZA) September 18, 2020