News anlaysis

Lockdown Level 4
(Getty)
  • Details of just what life will look like from 1 May, when SA exits lockdown for level 4 restrictions, are still sketchy.
  • But a few details have emerged from top-level discussions.
  • Crossing a provincial boundary will remain illegal – except if you have to do so to return to work.
  • And some social gatherings, such as weddings, may be allowed again – but limited to as little as 10 people.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

There was furious behind-the-scenes action on Thursday night after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa would move to a five-stage system of Covid-19 restrictions – and shift to level 4 from 1 May.

Industry bodies scrambled to prepare to lobby for the reopening of their sectors early in the process, while government departments worked on draft rules to specify exactly what will, and won't, be allowed at each level of restrictions.

An earlier draft plan for the system proposed that level 4 would be much like lockdown, just with more things on sale and professional services allowed.

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

Only at level 2 would all retail and industries be fully open again.

That plan could change dramatically after consultations with everyone from opposition political leaders to industry bodies. It also makes provisions for exemptions and requirements at a "sub-sector level", rules that are expected to remain in flux as conditions change and unforeseen problems arise.

Meanwhile, high-level government discussions suggest level 4 restrictions will still severely restrict social gatherings, while loosening some travel restrictions.

Under one proposal – which closely matches the broad outline announced by Ramaphosa - South Africans will be allowed to cross provincial boundaries for the purpose of returning to work in a different province to the one in which they spent lockdown.

That will be the first time such cross-province movement is allowed since lockdown began; at present travellers have to cite extraordinary circumstances to receive permits to do so.

See also: Workers to return in batches of one third: what we know about SA’s reopening plan

Large social gatherings will still be banned, with only funerals exempted, and those only for up to 50 people, the current high-level consensus seems to be. 

But "cultural gatherings" – including weddings – may be permitted as long as they feature no more than ten people.

That would still exclude older people, who may face more severe restrictions on movement and gathering due to their higher risk of severe cases of Covid-19.

According to one proposal South Africa would have a national curfew every day from 19:00 to 05:00, when only essential workers would be allowed to move around. 

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