Some 1.5 million people are expected to return to work as South Africa eases out of a hard lockdown, with new regulations allowing for the return of a range of sectors from beekeeping to recycling.
But hairdressing, cigarette and liquor sales didn’t make the cut.
Last week President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the restrictions on economic activity would be lifted based on five coronavirus levels. SA is currently at Level 5, allowing essential workers only.
Speaking at a briefing on Wednesday evening on the regulations for Level 4, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said over 70 000 submissions had been received from stakeholders giving their input.
Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel warned that South Africa should prepare for the long haul, saying Level 4 was a critical phase to prepare the economy for the next 6 – 8 months, when the virus would likely still be circulating.
Under Level 4, here’s what the country can expect.
The manufacturing sector is currently open for food and healthcare, some packaging, some baby products and fuel. It will now be expanded to include more factories and workplaces.
Around 30% of workers will return to work in a phased way, with up to 50% in some sectors, for example in the automobile value chain, which includes steel and metal.
Some factories, including paper-making and baby products, will go into full production.
Where an industry can only have a percentage of workers at work, employees should be rotated so that each worker should have the chance to work, said Patel.
This sector will step up economic activities, including civil engineering for public works in areas like water and sanitation, but also road and bridge projects, and road repairs.
The agriculture sector will largely reopen, with forestry and fishing allowed, as well as the harvesting of grain and oil seeds, and key imports and exports. Some supporting industries will also be operating. Beekeepers will be allowed to operate at night.
Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza said strict safety precautions would be implemented.
Car sales will be phased in under directions to be announced. Car hire will be open for servicing companies that are operating in Level 4.
This area will be expanded incrementally, with a larger number of items being allowed for delivery.
Imports & exports
The regulations for imports and exports will be relaxed slightly. Patel did not elaborate, but he urged customers to buy locally where possible.
Retail & wholesalers
The retail sector will increase its activities, affecting ecommerce, stores, spaza shops, as well as informal traders. A wider list of personal toiletries will be allowed for sale, as well as children’s clothing, winter clothing and shoes, stationery and educational books.
Home office equipment will be available, and hardware will be sold.
A number of people had expressed concern that they needed to buy winter clothes and other items for the cold season, Dlamini-Zuma said. “It is important for people to be warm, even for the fight against Covid,” she noted.
Heaters, bedding and fabrics for making face masks will also be available.
Telephone services and infrastructure
“We are encouraging people to work at home, so if your computer is broken, or you want a new computer, you can now get that,” said Dlamini-Zuma.
Postal and courier services
These will be operating for deliveries.
Media and entertainment
Production for TV, radio and other broadcasts will be open.
Live streaming sessions within the creative section is provided for, said Patel.
Call centres may expand to serve international customers, but with strict health regulations in place.
Financial and business sectors
These will be open, but remote work is encouraged.
Mechanics, emergency home repairs, locksmiths and other emergency repair services will be back in action.
In private homes, people who look after the sick, those with disabilities or mental illnesses, or children will be allowed, as well as live-in staff.
Licencing, deeds offices, birth certificates and other documents will become available as various administrative offices reopen.
Police, law enforcement officers and Chapter 9 institutions will be available. Each office will decide what staff are required, Dlamini-Zuma said.
Medical and veterinary services
These, as under Level 5 lockdown, will be available. In addition to veterinary services, wildlife management and anti-poaching services will also be working under Level 4.
Glass, paper, plastic, metal and tyres can now be recycled, meaning informal recyclers can also go back to work.
What didn’t make the cut?
Hairdressers and beauty therapists
Many people wanted hairdressers to be opened, said Dlamini-Zuma. “But at this point it is not possible because [with] those kinds of services the person is close, there is no social distancing. We heard you but we can’t allow it at this point. It is too risky.
“But what we have added is products for foot and hair and manicure so that you can do it at home,” she said.
“Maybe the hairdressers can open online with lessons for how people can do their hair,” she suggested.
Cigarettes and liquor
To the chagrin of smokers and drinkers, government backtracked on an earlier proposal to allow cigarette sales. Dlamini-Zuma argued that both smoking and drinking went against the principles of physical distancing. “Very few people enjoy drinking alone. They want to drink with other people,” Dlamini-Zuma said.
Liquor – even homemade – is not allowed, even if you sell and distribute it from your home.
Cracking down on alcohol frees police to “do what they need to do” and allows hospitals to take care of emergencies and who are sick with “all sorts of other illnesses including Covid”, Dlamini-Zuma argued.
She also said smoking encouraged the spread of the virus, and that some 2 000 people had objected to the proposed reintroduction of the sale of cigarettes.
“The ways that tobacco is shared does not encourage social distancing,” she claimed.
“What do you call it – like a zol,” she said. “Sometimes when [smokers roll a] zol they put saliva on the paper, then they share it,” she added.
Hotels and guest houses are not allowed except for quarantine or essential services.
Restaurants will not yet be open as usual. Hot food may only be sold online, and only deliveries and takeaways are allowed. Opening hours will be 9:00 to 19:00.
But Dlamini-Zuma was optimistic that the food industry would be able to bounce back. “Even in the townships we hope there will be a new business boom around delivery,” she said.