UPDATE: National state of disaster extended to 15 August

As the economic pressures continue to sky rocket for people in South Africa, the government has decided to open the economy to allow more businesses to open. This is called Level 3: Advanced Level. Despite the coronavirus continuing to spread in South Africa, people still need opportunities to earn money. President Ramaphosa explains that the pandemic is not only a global health crisis, but also an economic one which has disrupted the livelihoods of millions of people.

Has the lockdown caused real difficulties for your family? Many people have really been struggling, especially because they have not been able to earn money during Level 5 and then 4 of the lockdown. Because of the economic toll of the lockdown, the government has decided to move all areas in South Africa to Level 3 on 1st June.

There are definitely places in South Africa where the coronavirus is still spreading quickly and more and more people are getting it. However, the health sector has had time to prepare for the difficult situation ahead (as best as they are able) and the economy now needs to start working again.

These are the changes that have been made for Level 3: Advanced level:

Can I go to a salon to have my hair cut or treated?

Yes, hair salons are now open. Not only can you go to the hairdresser but you can also go to beauty salons as all these services have been opened. Each salon will have to have specific safety measures in place to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread and masks and hand sanitising are compulsory. Businesses can only open once all these safety arrangements have been put into place.

Will I be allowed to play any sport I want to now?

Contact sport remains restricted. People who play non-contact sports such as golf, tennis, cricket and some others are now allowed to play. Contact sports are only allowed for training and for some modified activities. The use of sport facilities such as showers and change rooms is restricted.

I really want to go out to a movie. Can I go now?

Yes, you can go to cinemas and theatres but the numbers of people allowed in will be restricted to the numbers allowed for gatherings. This means that no more than 50 people will be allowed in a venue at a time. Social distancing will need to be put in place which means that some seats will be out-of-bounds and you won’t be able to sit in them. Social distancing, wearing marks and hand sanitising are really important, especially in indoor areas where a group of people is gathering.

I work in a hotel. When will I be allowed to go back to work?

Hotels and accredited accommodation for visitors is now open. This excludes home-stay accommodation such as those advertised on Airbnb. Airbnb and home-sharing accommodation is still too risky. You may be able to go back to work if the hotel you work in has been opened but this will depend on whether there are any visitors. Overseas tourists are still not allowed into the country and tourism in general has been very hard hit by the virus.

What else has the government decided to open up?

The other areas that have been opened up are casinos, conferences and meetings for business purposes. These are restricted to the numbers of people allowed to meet in the government regulations (no more than 50). Again, all health protocols need to be put into place and maintained properly for these activities to go ahead.

Here is some information regarding Level 3:

Do I still need to wear a mask?

Yes, masks outside of home remain compulsory. You will need to wear them from when you leave home until you return. The wearing of masks, the 1.5 metres social distancing from others as well as the frequent washing of hands remains exactly the same as Level 4 and 5 of the lockdown.

Can I leave my home before 5am?

No you may not. The curfew preventing movement has been reinstated. Everyone needs to stay in their houses between 9pm and 4am. All exercise must be done during this time as well.

The only people exempt from the curfew are those travelling to and from work and those seeking medical assistance.

Am I allowed to visit my family?

Not yet. Although people will be allowed to go to work, to see health professionals and to go to the shop, they are not yet allowed to visit others or meet in groups. The exception for this remains funerals with no more than 50 people attending. Work place meetings may take place for work purposes. However, people are still required to stay at home as much as possible, especially those over 60 or those who suffer from underlying conditions such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.

At this stage, no travel is allowed between provinces (except for funerals). Some air travel for business activities will be allowed under strict conditions.

What am I allowed to buy at the shops?

All wholesale and retail shops are now allowed to be open. You can buy clothes, household appliances and anything else you need. Spaza shops will also be open. Shops are now allowed to sell hot food.

The alcohol ban has been reinstated and you will no longer be able to buy alcohol at any time. This ban has been reinstated with immediate effect.

You will not be able to buy cigarettes.

Must children go to school?

Schools were due to open on the 1st June for Grade 7s and 12s but that was postponed at the last minute to Monday 8th June. Some schools, though, particularly in the Western Cape, did start on the 1st June.

The reason for the delay was that not all schools were ready to accept children because they had not yet received the personal protective equipment (PPEs) needed for learners. Some schools were also not fully prepared for the return of learners as all schools need to have put in measures to protect learners and staff from the virus.

If parents don’t want to send their children to school, they don’t have to but they will need to apply to the education department for permission to exempt the learner either entirely, partially or on a certain condition. Parents have the option to register their child as being home-schooled.

Mid-year matric exams will not be held. Exams will only be held for them in November and December unless the conditions around coronavirus make this impossible.

Grade R, 3, 6, 10 and 11 are set to return to school on the 6th July. Grades 4, 5, 8 and 9 are due back in class from the 3rd August. As yet, there is no clarity about when Grade 1s and 2s will go back and Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDs) remain closed.

Schools reopen on the 1st June for Grade 7s and 12s although schools with small numbers of learners may open to other grades too. There are strict health protocols in place to protect learners and educators. However, parents are not forced to send their children back to school if they are worried about their safety.

Other grades will return to school as the DBE (Department of Basic Education) decides.

ECDs (Early Childhood Development) Centres fall under the Department of Social Development and they are not open.

Does everyone go back to work?

Many more people will go back to work as long as the health protocols and physical distancing rules are in place. Those working in manufacturing, mining, construction, communications, government service, financial services, professional and business services, information technology and media services can return to work.

Government recommends that those who can work from home continue to do so. Anyone who is over 60 or suffers from an underlying condition is encouraged to work from home.

Government has also stated that all fishing (except chartered fishing) and subsistence hunting for food with the necessary permits will be allowed. All those who work in the recycling sector are able to return to work as well as domestic workers.

People who work as hairdressers, beauticians or in the tourism industry are not allowed to work yet.

Restaurants, pubs, shebeens, clubs, gyms and entertainment venues remain closed (unless the restaurant/shebeen produces takeaway meals or sells off-licence alcohol).

Have the regulations regarding public transport changed?

Some forms of public transport need to continue to practice social distancing. Taxis on long haul journeys can only carry 70% of their usual passengers. Taxis on local journeys will, however, be able to operate 100% capacity but appropriate measures must be taken to insure that the windows are open and all passengers are wearing masks. All forms of transport need to be sanitised daily.

Trains on certain lines will resume on the 1st July. At the moment only four lines will become operational and they are: Pretoria to Pienaarspoort; Cape Town to Simon’s Town; East London to Berlin and Port Elizabeth to Uitenhage.

Long distance taxis and buses are still not allowed to operate.

If you are using public transport, you need to be very careful. Wear a mask, practice social distancing and don’t touch your face until you have washed your hands. It’s an easy place for the virus to spread.

May I go back to church/mosque?

Places of worship are allowed to operate from the 1st June as long as no more than 50 people are present and the service does not run for more than 2 hours. Again, all the protocols for social distancing and sanitising need to be in place.

Many places of worship, however, have decided not to open because of the continued rise in infections. Even if some places of worship are open, people who are over 60 or who have co-morbidities should be very cautious about attending.

Can I go to sports matches?

Sports matches are still not open to the public. No contact sports are allowed to take place however non-contact sports can resume matches without spectators.

Although it might seem as if things are becoming more ‘normal’, they aren’t really. We will need to get used to keeping our distance from others and maintaining all the rules around hygiene. The virus is still very much with us and we all need to be careful not infect ourselves or others around us.