Lockdown level 1
  • South Africa's lockdown rules are structured in Alert Levels, and the idea was always that they could go both down and up, if necessary.
  • Now, apparently, the government is considering going up one level for the first time, taking SA from Alert Level 1 to Alert Level 2.
  • The rules for lockdown can be changed at any time, without any notice.
  • But if Level 2 stays as it is on the books, this is what would change in South Africa if a harder lockdown is imposed in December.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Update | No more travel red list and longer booze sales: What you need to know about Ramaphosa’s speech

President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned that South Africa could face a second wave of coronavirus infections, if citizens are insufficiently vigilant. Now government officials have confirmed – anonymously – to Bloomberg that tougher restrictions are on the cards again in discussions this week.

On Tuesday the  Business for South Africa (B4SA) group asked for "certainty that there will not be another hard economic lockdown (Alert levels 3 to 5) in the country in the event of a second wave of Covid-19 infection" – but did not ask for any promise about Level 2.

"Certainty that South Africa will not return to a hard lockdown – irrespective of infection rates – would stimulate economic activity by unlocking business investment projects and consumer spending plans, which are currently on hold due to concerns about government’s response to a potential second wave of infections in South Africa," the organisation said in a statement.

Just what that would look like is not clear. South Africa's tiered system of lockdown restrictions, set out as Alert Levels ranging from 5 (hard lockdown) to 1 (the current level) was set up to move both up and down, so that the previously-used rules for Alert Level 2 could simply be reimposed.

But since March, lockdown rules have constantly changed within what became the alert levels, growing less strict even before the formal ramping-down between stages.

A similar dilution may come into play if SA were to step back up to Level 2.

As the rules stand, though, here's what would change if South Africa were to go back to Level 2.

Foreign tourism would be banned again – including for South Africans

The biggest change Level 1 brought was the reopening of South Africa's borders for leisure tourism (for some countries), allowing foreigners to visit, and South Africans to travel abroad for more than just business.

The Level 2 framework bans international air travel for leisure. Still allowed is repatriation flights – including inbound ones for South African citizens, who are always allowed entry into the country if they can reach a border – and "the return of a South African national or permanent resident to his or her place of employment, study or residence, outside the Republic".

There would be no booze sales on Friday

After the restrictions on alcohol sales were relaxed, Level 2 banned the sale of booze only on public holidays, weekends, and Fridays, at bottle stores, which were otherwise allowed to sell between 09:00 and 17:00 Monday through Thursday.

The change to Level 1 added only Friday sales to that list.

As Level 2 rules stand, bars and restaurants would still be able to sell booze through the weekend, and would be required only to stick to the general curfew.

Curfew would move back from midnight to 22:00

The Level 2 curfew is set at 22:00 to 04:00, rather than starting at 00:01 as it does under Level 1. 

Though the earlier curfew was unpopular, both for its restrictive nature and the difficulties it created for industries with shift systems and hospitality businesses, government officials insisted it both prevented the kind of boozy gatherings more likely to see the spread of viruses, and kept hospitals less busy due to a reduction in road crashes.

Church services would go back to a maximum of 50 people at a time – and political events would be banned

Faith-based gatherings may run to 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors under Level 1, as long as social distance is observed.

Rolling back to Level 2 would reduce that maximum to 50 people again, subject to them staying far enough away from one another.

For funerals, the current limit of 100 people would also drop back to a maximum of 50.

Level 1 also brought a specific exclusion from the ban on gatherings for "political events", which would fall away as things stand.

Rules would still apply nationally, regardless of the local level of coronavirus transmission in provinces or metros

Although the current biggest area of concern is the Eastern Cape, plans for regionally differentiated rules floated by government – and at one time provided for in regulations – were never used.

As regulations and planning stand, the entire South Africa would move up to Level 2, or to an enhanced version of Level 1, no matter how full or empty hospitals are in different places, and regardless of the actual speed of coronavirus spread. 

Update | No more travel red list and longer booze sales: What you need to know about Ramaphosa’s speech

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