On Saturday, South Africa celebrated President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that we’d be moving to lockdown level 2. But what does that mean? What restrictions have been lifted and what can we still not do? We’ve got all the details here.
The President folds
President Ramaphosa has had a hard time convincing South Africans to adhere to and support his government’s decisions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and the consequences for his policies, poor leadership and lack of support from his own government have been dire. South Africa remains the fifth worst affected country, in terms of number of COVID-19 infections in the world. Nonsensical lockdown rules, such as the tobacco ban, have been widely criticised, had no positive outcomes and the state was even taken to court over the matter.
Furthermore, Ramaphosa’s failure to put his Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in place after she went over his head in making certain decisions has hurt his image and he appears as a timid, weak leader – putting an ANC victory in the elections four years from now under question for the first time in South Africa’s democratic history.
As a result of the political pressures, among other factors, including a reported drop-off in infections and relatively high readiness of healthcare facilities to handle the influx of COVID-19 positive patients, Ramaphosa announced a downgrade on South Africa’s lockdown restrictions from level 3 to level 2.
“Economic activity will be allowed with the necessary and appropriate stringent health protocols and safety measures in place,” he said in his address to the nation on Saturday evening. “We have concluded that the lower rates of infection we are experiencing should lead to a relaxing of the restrictions we’ve had thus far.”
“However, now is the time for even greater vigilance and even greater care,” he added.
What can we do now?
When level 2 restrictions come into place at 00:01 on Tuesday morning, people and businesses in South Africa will now be able to:
- Travel inter-provincially without restriction;
- Accommodation, hospitality and tours will be permitted, with appropriate protocols in place;
- Restaurants, bars and taverns can reopen, provided they adhere to safety protocols;
- Restrictions on the sale of tobacco will be lifted;
- Restrictions on the sale of alcohol will be lifted, subject to certain restrictions, including a ban on sales after 22:00 in licensed outlets, with liquor stores being restricted to selling for off-site consumption only between the hours of 09:00 and 17:00 from Mondays to Thursdays;
- Restrictions on family and social visits will also be lifted.
What are we still not allowed to do?
While many may be under the impression that normal life will effectively resume, there are still a number of restrictions in place, including:
- A ban on international travel;
- A ban on gatherings of 50 people or more, including funerals and religious events;
- Spectators will not be allowed to attend sporting events;
- The curfew between 22:00 and 04:00 will remain in place.
So South Africa may be able to breathe a sigh of relief as our lives begin to resemble some kind of normality under lockdown level 2. However, the president needs to ensure that the rest of his government follows through on his decisions, enforces regulations correctly and that everyone in South Africa gets behind him and practices vigilance on an individual level. For now though, the country will be excited to drink and smoke again.