President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa will move to alert level 3 with effect from 1 June.

This will see more sectors of the economy opening and the removal of a number of restrictions on the movement of people.

Addressing the nation on Sunday (May 24) on the developments in South Africa’s risk-adjusted strategy to manage the spread of COVID-19, the President said the country will have a differentiated approach to deal with areas that have far higher levels of infection and transmission.

COVID-19 hotspots

These areas have been declared as Coronavirus hotspots. They include the following metros: Tshwane, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Nelson Mandela Bay, Buffalo City and Cape Town.

Other areas that have been identified as hotspots are West Coast, Overberg and Cape Winelands district municipalities in the Western Cape, Chris Hani district in the Eastern Cape, and iLembe district in KwaZulu-Natal.

A hotspot is an area that has more than five infected per every 100 000 people, or where new infections are increasing rapidly.

To deal with the virus in these areas, government will implement interventions aimed at decreasing the number of new infections.

“We are putting in place enhanced measures of surveillance, infection control and management. We will assign a full-time team of experienced personnel to each hotspot,” the President said.

This team will include epidemiologists, family practitioners, nurses, community health workers, public health experts and emergency medical services, to be supported by Cuban experts.

“We will link each hotspot to testing services, isolation facilities, quarantine facilities, treatment, hospital beds and contact tracing.

“Should it be necessary, any part of the country could be returned to alert levels 4 or 5 if the spread of infection is not contained despite our interventions and there is a risk of our health facilities being overwhelmed,” he said.

The list of hotspot areas will be reviewed every two weeks depending on the progression of the virus.

Opening the economy

“The implementation of alert level 3 from the beginning of June will involve the return to operation of most sectors of the economy, subject to observance of strict health protocols and social distancing rules.

The opening of the economy and other activities means that more public servants will be called back to work,” President Ramaphosa said.

This will be done in accordance with provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act with all other departments in government.

The President’s address follows recent meetings of Cabinet, the National Coronavirus Command Council and the President’s Coordinating Council; which considered the prospects for the country’s progression from alert level 4 to level 3 of the national lockdown.

The President also held consultative meetings with the business, labour and community constituencies of the NEDLAC.

Protocols and workplace plans

As more sectors of the economy open, government will rely on social compacts to address the key risk factors at the workplace and in the interface between employees and the public.

“We will be finalising a number of sector protocols and will require every company to develop a workplace plan before they re-open,” he said.

According to these plans, companies will need to put in place sanitary and social distancing measures and facilities; they will need to screen workers on arrival daily, quarantine those who may be infected and make arrangements for testing.

“They also need to assist with contact tracing if employees test positive. Because of their vulnerability, all staff older than 60 years of age and those who suffer from underlying conditions should ideally stay at home,” President said.

Employees who can work from home should be allowed to do so.

Manufacturing, mining, construction, financial services, business, ICT, government and media will commence full reopening from 1 June.

The appropriate restart and phasing in arrangements will need to be put in place for every workplace.

“Wholesale and retail trade will be fully opened, including stores, spaza shops and informal traders. E-commerce will continue to remain open. Other sectors that opened previously will remain fully opened,” he said.

High-risk economic activities prohibited

High-risk economic activities will remain prohibited. These include:

· Restaurants, bars and taverns, except for delivery or collection of food.

· Accommodation and domestic air travel, except for business travel, which will be phased in on dates to be announced.

· Conferences, events, entertainment and sporting activities.

· Personal care services, including hairdressing and beauty services.

Movement of people and sale of alcohol

People will be able to exercise at any time during the day, provided this is not done in groups. The curfew on the movement of people will be lifted.

“Alcohol may be sold for home consumption only under strict conditions, on specified days and for limited hours. Announcements will be made once we have concluded discussions with the sector on the various conditions,” the President said.

The sale of tobacco products will remain prohibited in alert level 3, due to the health risks associated with smoking.

“All gatherings will remain prohibited, except for funerals or meetings in the workplace for work purposes,” he said.

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