With just three days to go until South Africa moves to alert level 3 of lockdown, government is shifting to rebuild the economy which suffered a massive blow as a result of the lockdown.
Under alert level 3, many more economic activities will be permitted with about 8 million workers set to return to work.
“If level 5 and to some extent level 4 were directed at detailed regulations and having as many people at home, level 3 is based on most South Africans being at work. That is the big shift in level 3, and the shift is therefore to a more flexible and collaborative set of arrangement, including regulations that enable businesses to do more.
“It means almost our entire workforce will be back at work although we should caution that the appeal has been made that those who can work from home should be enabled and encouraged to work from home. Special care must be taken for those over 60 and those with comorbidities,” said Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel.
The Minister together with his colleagues – Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Justice Minster Ronald Lamola – outlined the regulations that will govern alert level 3 of lockdown.
In moving to level 3, government undertook wide ranging consultations with business, labour and civil society. Government published a framework of its intended measures which was put out for public comment which received over 70 000 comments.
“All of these consultations were directed at getting ready to increase production but at the same time to protect workers and customers from a rapid spread of the virus.
“In this period, we looked also at how can we avoid so much pressure on the public transport system where people are crammed together and they become important and key sites for the spread of the virus,” said Patel.
During level 4, government monitored workplaces to determine compliance with health and safety protocols in preparation for the return of the country’s workforce.
Upon returning to work, companies must ensure the correct protective equipment is available, social distancing is enforced and screening takes place.
According to the Minister, level 3 is the most significant reopening since the lockdown began 63 days ago.
“It opens up all of our core productive sectors from manufacturing, mining to all our productive services, it means that the country’s steel mills, textile operations, chemical plants, plastic operations will operate at full capacity,” he said.
Under level 3, electronics, furniture and other sectors will all be able to produce for both the South African market and for export to the rest of the world.
While under previous levels of lockdown, the retail sector was open under limited conditions, under the new regulations people can purchase appliances, electronic goods and all clothing items.
Alcohol sale returns at limited scale
While level 3 reopens several sectors, others will return although at limited scale.
This includes alcohol consumption which was prohibited under level 5 and 4 of lockdown. Under level 3, onsite alcohol consumption is still off the cards but the public will be able to purchase alcohol for consumption at home. Alcohol will be sold on Mondays to Thursdays from 9am to 5pm.
Meanwhile, sitting down for a meal at a restaurant is still prohibited but people will get some reprieve from the stove with the mass scale reopening of food for delivery, drive through and collection options available from the start of next month.
Tobacco sales remain banned under alert level 3.
Hotels and lodges will operate albeit in a limited capacity, with bookings only available for work purposes. No leisure bookings for tourists will be allowed.
Bad hair days will also remain with South Africans for some time with physical care services like hairdressers and nail salons still barred from operating.
“We will be engaging on a continuous basis with all of these sectors to see at what point will it be possible for more activities to open up and what would be the protocols,” said Patel.
With the country redirecting its efforts to the rebuild of the economy, the Minster pleaded with South Africans to support local industries.
“We must now begin to shift to rebuilding the economy. The impact of the pandemic on the economy has been severe, harsh, painful and damaging both in South Africa and across the world.
“As we open businesses again we must use all of our efforts in government as consumers, workers, to support local manufacturers, including small enterprises, to promote the proudly South African campaign, because when jobs are created here in local manufacturers, they send a positive economic momentum right through the economy. They create livelihoods and provide more resources in the society,” said Patel.