As the country prepares for the easing of lockdown regulations to Level 4 on Friday 1 May, many questions remain unanswered as government works through the thousands of submissions it received on the proposed regulations.
At a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon it was announced that the ministers who serve on the National Coronavirus Command Council will in due course provide further details on their proposed socio-economic relief interventions.
While residents are eager for clarity on issues such as the relaxation on restrictions of movement and what and how businesses will be allowed to resume trade, the hospitality industry, including restaurants and accommodation establishments, are also anxiously waiting for a verdict on whether they’ll be able to access the government’s Tourism Relief Fund.
This comes after trade union, Solidarity and civil rights group, AfriForum took the Minister and the Department of Tourism to court for using race as the criterion for granting COVID-19 economic relief aid. The case was heard in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday, but judgement was reserved and a verdict will only be given at the end of the week.
Both complainants believe that the R200 million support fund is racially discriminative towards some South Africans. Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said due to the court case, no funds have yet been distributed. Both accommodation establishments and restaurants are reliant on this fund to help see them through this tough economic time.
It is estimated that some 1.5 million South Africans will be able to work again as the government begins to lift a fraction of the COVID-19 lockdown regulations. Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel on Saturday gave a broad framework of what is to be expected during Level 4.
At the time of going to press, some of the proposed regulations will see all agriculture, hunting, forestry, fishing and related services, including the export of agricultural products, permitted to operate.
From Friday, restaurants will be able to sell hot, cooked food for home delivery. Sit down or pick-ups are still not permitted. Retailers and informal traders will be allowed to sell any food product, including non-alcoholic beverages and animal food, but no hot, cooked food (unless it is delivered). Winter clothing, bedding and heaters may also be sold.
While the ban on the sale of alcohol will remain in place, stationery and educational books, as well as tobacco products will be available. Sales of personal information and communications technology equipment, including computers, mobile telephones and other home-office equipment, will be permitted under the relaxed regulations.
The recycling of glass, paper and metal, including by informal recyclers, will be permitted at 50% capacity.
Fitness enthusiasts will breathe a sigh of relief, as they will be able to exercise under certain restrictions yet to be announced. These include no training in groups, while the ban on recreational facilities and gyms also remains.
Regarding personal movement, interprovincial travel is not permitted except to return to work or for funerals (with approval). No recreational travel or to meet friends or family will be allowed and it will be mandatory to use a cloth mask and ensure hand hygiene when in public or the workplace.
The elderly and persons with co-morbidities are encouraged to continue to self-isolate and only leave home for exceptional reasons. Social distancing of 2 metres must be applied in public when shopping and visiting health facilities such as pharmacies and clinics. Stores must ensure that there is temperature screening of patrons and that hand sanitisers are available.
All public gatherings are still prohibited. Curfews will remain between 20:00 and 05:00. Provincial premiers will have the authority to intensify the lockdown levels applicable in the province, districts and metropolitan areas, depending on the infection numbers and how equipped their health systems are.