Level 4, but without the bite: Here’s how 2021’s Alert Level 4 differs from the 2020 version

Business Insider SA

SARS-CoV-2 lockdown

* This article has been updated below.

South Africa needs urgent measures to halt the rapid spread of the coronavirus, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday night – but not at any cost.

"The measures that we are putting in place now are designed to allow as much economic activity to continue as possible, while containing the spread of the virus," he said.

That is a very different attitude to the one government adopted in 2020, when South Africa first entered a Level 4 lockdown, which held frozen all but selected parts of the economy.

See also | Adjusted lockdown level 4: What will now be allowed

They may share much of a name, but Adjusted Alert Level 4 is very different from the unadjusted original.

Here is how Level 4 in 2021 compares with the version imposed in 2020.

Then: Travel outside your province only with permission

Interprovincial travel required proof that you were returning to work in a different province, or that you were attending funerals. Other than that, only those delivering essential services were allowed to cross provincial borders.

Now: Gauteng closed – for leisure

Gauteng, and only Gauteng, will be closed for "leisure purposes", both inbound and outbound, said Ramaphosa. That specifically "does not include work, business or commercial travel, transit through airports or for the transport of goods."

Then: Borders closed

International travel was limited to South Africans returning home, and foreigners leaving South Africa – on the very limited number of special repatriation flights available.

Now: n/a

The closest thing to a travel ban is the continuing call on employers to postpone non-essential travel by staff. There are no limitations on international travel, other than the ongoing closure of lesser border posts on land.

Then: Exercise was allowed – but not in gyms

If you wanted to get sweaty, you had to do it outside any recreational facility and organised activity – and within 5km of home.

Now: No gatherings at gyms

Gatherings are not permitted outside funerals, so park runs and group cycling is affected – as are gyms. According to regulations published on Monday morning, but not mentioned in Ramaphosa's speech, gatherings at gyms and fitness centres are banned, and they must be closed. 

Then: Cooked food could be delivered – but not bought in any retail store.

Level 4 brought permission for hot cooked food to be delivered, but not collected. That included all retailers, so that a supermarket could sell you some other goods, but weren't allowed to sell you a pie or roast chicken too.

Now: You can't sit at a restaurant, but you can collect

Sit-down service at restaurants is banned, said Ramaphosa, but they can sell take-aways, either for collection or delivery. 

"This is because it is not possible for patrons to wear masks while eating or drinking in these establishments," said Ramaphosa. 

Then: There was a list of what you could buy from general retailers

Stores were allowed to sell any children’s clothing, but only winter clothing for adults. You could buy parts for emergency repairs to cars, but no other spares. 

Now: n/a

There are no restrictions on retail, outside the need to adhere to the general curfew of 21:00, which means stores have to close by 20:00 at the latest.

Then: A curfew of 20:00 to 05:00

Everyone who did not have special permission had to be home at 20:00, with no provisions for earlier closing times for businesses

Now: A curfew of 21:00 to 04:00

As has been the case for some time, the curfew comes with a one-hour earlier closing time for non-essential establishments designed to allow staff time to get home, which now means they have to close by 20:00. 

Then: No public gatherings and 50 people at a funeral

All public gatherings were banned, and groups could only get together at a funeral, and then only 50 people at a time.

Now: No public gatherings and 50 people at a funeral

All public gatherings are banned, and groups may only get together at a funeral, and then only 50 people at a time.

Then: no alcohol or tobacco sales

The sale of cigarettes and alcoholic drinks was forbidden.

Now: No alcohol sales

The sale of alcoholic drinks will be forbidden.

See also | Adjusted lockdown level 4: What will now be allowed

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

* This article was updated after publication to reflect the publication, on Monday morning, of regulations that banned gatherings at gyms.

Get the best of our site emailed to you every weekday.

Go to the Business Insider front page for more stories.