Cyril Ramaphosa in a mask
President Cyril Ramaphosa at the end of his address to the nation on Thursday night. (GCIS)

  • Companies that reopen will have to first prepare their workplaces, then bring in employees in batches of one-third at a time, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Thursday.
  • Employees who can work from home must, and strict hygiene measures will be required.
  • Here is what we know about the return-to-work plan, and what companies will be required to do.
  • For more stories go to

The phased reopening of South Africa's economy from 1 May will come with stringent requirements for businesses, President Cyril Ramaphosa warned on Thursday.

Ramaphosa confirmed that the government plans to institute a five-level system under which some parts of normal life will be reactivated – depending on how fast SARS-CoV-2 is spreading, and how ready the health system is to deal with an influx of patients.

The country is due to be at Level 4 from 1 May. Though Ramaphosa provided no details, a draft plan held that agriculture, open-cast mining, and all financial and professional services would resume at Level 4, as would postal delivery. E-hailing services and taxis would also be allowed to operate any time of day, with limits on how many passengers they may carry.

See also: Here’s at what stage takeaways and domestic work will be legal again under a draft govt plan

Stores already open to sell essentials would also be able to sell a wider range of goods at Level 4.

Here is what we know about the requirements for businesses to reopen from 1 May.

Different sectors will have a formal opportunity to lobby for inclusion in the list of those that get to open at Level 4.

Though industry bodies representing everything from cigarette makers to the wine industry have tried to engage the government about emergency rules to date, they have not been formally consulted before regulations were made.

Various ministers are due to unpack details of the new return-to-work plan – including which industry will fall under what level – on Friday.

"We will give all industry bodies an opportunity to consider these details and, should they wish, to make submissions before new regulations are gazetted," Ramaphosa said.

Return to work will be in batches of one-third of total employees at a time.

Businesses will not simply be allowed to throw open their doors, Ramaphosa said.

"All businesses that are permitted to resume operations will be required to do so in a phased manner, first preparing the workplace for a return to operations, followed by the return of the workforce in batches of no more than one-third."

Early indications are that one third of employees will be allowed to return to work per week – after advance teams have had the time to prepare workplaces.

Some types of businesses may also still be required to operate at only part of their full capacity, in a similar fashion to mines that were allowed to reopen, but only at 50% production.

See also: Mass Covid-19 testing has been ‘crippled’ by how SA buys supplies, says National Treasury

Working from home will be at least strongly encouraged.

Businesses "will be encouraged" to have a work-from-home strategy, Ramaphosa said, but he added that "all staff who can work remotely must be allowed to do so."

It was not immediately clear whether that would find its way into regulations or in what form – and so wether work from home would be optional or not.

See also: Cloth masks may become compulsory in SA post-lockdown

Businesses are going to need plans.

There will be "detailed" health and safety protocols for businesses to prevent viral spread in the workplace, Ramaphosa said, with plans for surveillance too.

Judging by previous discussions, that will likely mean a strict requirement to take the temperatures of those entering and leaving premises, keeping workers at least 1.5 metres (and possibly more) apart from one another, and limiting meetings and any other gatherings, such as for meals.

According to one proposal made at the highest level of government, business will have to plan for:

  • Identification and protection of vulnerable employees
  • Safe transport of employees
  • Screening of employees on entering the workplace
  • Measures such as cleaning of surfaces and shared equipment and good ventilation
  • Shift arrangements and canteen controls
  • Managing sick employees

See also: These are the kind of measures businesses (and schools) can expect when SA’s hard lockdown ends

Some businesses will not be opening any time soon.

Businesses that will remain closed under Level 4, and perhaps beyond, include bars and shebeens, conference and convention centres, entertainment venues, cinemas, and theatres,

There will also be no concerts or sporting events.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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