On Tuesday 18th August South Africa moves into Alert Level 2 of the lockdown.

Do you know that we have been in some form of ‘lockdown’ due to the coronavirus pandemic from 26 March? That’s nearly 5 months of restrictions. How have you managed during this time? Has it been really tough for you and your community?

During this time, the COVID 19 virus has infected (based on government statistics) 583 653 people and over 11 000 people have officially died from it (although this number might be higher). And these restrictions have really taken a toll on our economy.

It does seem, though, that the lockdown has helped prevent the kinds of death rates that other countries have experienced. According to President Ramaphosa there are now ‘signs of hope’ that we are making good progress against the virus.

Over the last 3 weeks the rate of spread of the virus has slowed down and our hospitals are no longer overwhelmed. The recovery rate of people who do get the virus is good. In light of this, many restrictions have been lifted although others remain in place.

Here are some changes:

Do I still need to wear a mask?

Yes, definitely. The wearing of masks in public remains compulsory as it is one of the main ways to stop the spread of the virus. You will also need to continue to practise social distancing and wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitiser. So it means that all those lines in the supermarkets for queues will stay around a little longer!

Can I attend a sporting event?

Not yet. Although sporting events can take place, there will be no spectators. On top of this, people can still not gather in groups of more than 50. This includes funeral services and any other larger gatherings. If events are kept quite small, with 50 or fewer people, then the chance of the virus spreading quickly to large numbers of people is prevented. This also means that the number of people allowed into shops and restaurants and other public spaces will still be limited.

Am I allowed to visit family and friends?

Yes, at last we can officially see our family and friends! Of course, there are restrictions on the number of people who gather together (as above) and you will need to be really careful around anyone who is over 60 and those who may be vulnerable to the disease because of health issues. It’s still important to wear masks and practise social distancing in these circumstances.

How about visiting family who live in other provinces?

The good news is that travel between provinces in now allowed. Hotels and accommodation facilities are open for leisure travel too although the number of guests is limited to prevent the spread of the virus. International travel is still not permitted as the virus continues to circulate around the world.

Is there still a curfew?

The curfew is still in place. This means that no-one, other than those involved in emergency services, can travel between 10pm and 4am.

What about the ban on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes?

This has really been controversial but the sale of cigarettes is now permitted without any restrictions. Alcohol is also allowed to be sold but with restrictions. It is only for sale at liquor outlets from Monday to Thursday from 9am to 5pm. Licensed restaurants can, though, serve alcohol until the nightly curfew starts.

Can I go to the gym?

All gym and fitness centres are allowed to open but they need to comply with strict safety procedures to make sure that the virus doesn’t spread in their facilities. There are no restrictions on outside exercise (other than large groups) and all parks, beaches and nature reserves are open.

The National State of Disaster has been extended to the 15th September to allow the government to keep certain restrictions in place.

Of course, we all know that we need to be careful in the weeks ahead. The virus hasn’t gone away and probably won’t for a long time. The more careful we are, the less likely it is that we will have to go back into higher alert levels again. I guess none of us want to go back to a hard lockdown!

The pandemic has created really hard times for many people and it isn’t going to an easy recovery economically. At least, now, we seem to be moving in the right direction and we can hope that things will slowly improve.