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Bulletin | Covid-19

National State Of Disaster: Alert Level 1 Frequently Asked Questions

Fasken
Reading Time 13 minute read
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At 00h00 on 27 March 2020, the national lockdown in South Africa commenced in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. Among other systems and measures, the government introduced the five level COVID-19 alert system. The system was developed to accommodate a gradual transition out of the national lockdown to ‘normality’, taking into account criteria such as the level of infections, the rate of transmission and the capacity of health facilities. The levels represent a sliding scale of preparedness - Alert Level 5 indicates a high infection spread with low health system readiness, whereas Alert Level 1 indicates a low infection spread with high health system readiness.

 

After 178 days, South Africans will move to Alert Level 1, the least restrictive period since the beginning of the national lockdown. The Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs issued Regulations in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 57 of 2002 (“the Regulations”) regarding Alert Level 1 on 17 September 2020.

 

In (what we hope will be) our final bulletin on the alert levels in this series on the lockdown regulations, we answer some frequently asked questions in respect of Alert Level 1.

 

GENERAL

 

1. When did we move to Alert Level 1?

 

Alert Level 1 applies nationally from 00h01 on 21 September 2020.

 

2. Is there still a curfew in place?

 

Yes. Every person is confined to their place of residence from 00h01 until 04h00 daily, unless a person:

• has been granted permission otherwise in directions issued by the relevant Cabinet member or a permit to travel to perform a service has been issued; or

• to attend to a security or medical emergency.

 

3. Are masks still required?

 

Face masks must be worn in public places, unless a person is undertaking vigorous exercise. Persons are not allowed to be in a public place or to use public transport if they are not wearing a face mask.

 

4. Are there still restrictions on funerals?

 

Yes. Attendance at a funeral is restricted to 100 persons or less, provided that 50% or less of the venue capacity is used and attendees observe a distance of least 1.5m from each other.

 

5. Are there any general requirements for gatherings?

 

All persons at a gathering must wear a face mask, adhere to all health protocols and maintain a distance of at least 1.5m from each other. Any other health protocols and social distancing measures issued by the relevant Cabinet member must be adhered to. Owners or operators of facilities must display a certificate setting out the maximum number of persons permitted in the facility.

 

6. What are the specific requirements for gatherings?

 

• Places of Worship, Social Events, Political Events & Traditional Council Meetings:

Attendance is limited to 250 persons or less for indoor gatherings and 500 persons or less for outdoor gatherings. However, no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used.

• Workplaces:

Gatherings at workplaces for purposes of work are permitted.

 

• Conferences and Meetings:

Attendance is limited to 250 persons or less for indoor gatherings and 500 persons or less for outdoor gatherings. However, no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used. Persons participating in conferences and meetings through electronic platforms are not included in the capacity limitations.

 

• Gatherings at concerts and live performances:

Attendance is limited to 250 persons or less for indoor gatherings and 500 persons or less for outdoor gatherings. However, no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used.

 

• Gatherings at cinemas and theatres:

Attendance is limited to 50% of the capacity of the cinema or the venue.

 

• Casinos:

No more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used. This percentage may increase as provided for in the directions issued by the relevant Cabinet member.

 

• Gatherings at sports grounds and fields, beaches, public parks, museums, galleries, libraries and archives:

Gatherings are permitted subject to the strict adherence to health protocols and social distancing measures.

 

• Gyms, Fitness Centres and Swimming Pools:

Attendance is limited to not more than 50% of the capacity of the venue.

 

• Restaurants:

Attendance is subject to strict adherence to directions on the times of operation, the number of persons, health protocols and social distancing measures, as provided for in the directions that must be issued by the relevant Cabinet member.

 

• Bars, Taverns, Shebeens and Similar Establishments:

No more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used and patrons must observe a distance of at least 1.5m for each other.

 

• Hotels, Lodges, B&Bs, Timeshare Facilities, Resorts and Guest Houses:

No more than 50% of the capacity of the establishment may be used and guests must observe a distance of at least 1.5m for each other.

 

• Auctions:

Gatherings are permitted subject to the strict adherence to health protocols and social distancing measures, as well as directions issued by the relevant Cabinet member.

 

• Sporting activities (professional and non-professional matches):

Sporting activities are permitted, provided:

◦ Such activities comply with the directions issued by the relevant Cabinet member.

◦ Only journalists, radio and television crew, security personnel, emergency medical services and the necessary employees employed by the owners of the venue are permitted at the venue of the sport match.

◦ Only the required number of players, match officials, support staff and medical crew are allowed at the venue of the sport match.

◦ No spectators are allowed at the venue of the sports match.

◦ No international sport events are allowed.

 

7. What will happen if a gathering does not comply with the Regulations?

 

If a gathering does not comply with the Regulations issued, an enforcement officer must order the persons at the gathering to disperse immediately and if the persons refuse to disperse, the enforcement officer may take appropriate action, including the arrest and detention of any person at the gathering.

 

8. Are evictions or demolitions permitted?

 

A person may not be evicted from their land or home or have their place of residence demolished for the duration of the national state of disaster unless a court grants a court order authorising an eviction or demolition of a place of residence. A court may suspend or stay any order for eviction or demolition until after the national state of disaster has lapsed, unless the court deems it not just and equitable to suspend or stay the order, having considered the factors listed in the Regulations.

 

9. Are any places closed to the public in Alert Level 1?

 

Night clubs are closed to the public and, if there is a risk of any members of the public being exposed to COVID-19 at any place or premises, the relevant Cabinet member may determine that such place or premises be closed to the public.

 

10. Are initiation schools permitted to operate under Alert Level 1?

 

Male and female initiation practices are prohibited for the duration of the national state of disaster.

A person may not arrange or hold an initiation school or conduct an initiation practice and a prospective initiate may not attend an initiation school.

 

An owner of land may not consent to the use of his or her land for the holding of an initiation school and a traditional surgeon or medical practitioner may not perform circumcision as part of an initiation practice.

 

The National House of Traditional Leaders and provincial houses of traditional leaders must take steps to ensure that traditional leaders are aware of this regulation.


11. Are prisons open to the public under Alert Level 1?

 

All visits by members of the public to correctional centres; remand detention facilities; police holding cells; military detention facilities; health establishments and facilities, except to receive treatment or medication, subject to strict adherence to health protocols; and older persons' residential facilities are prohibited except to the extent and in the manner directed by the relevant Cabinet member.

 

The Independent Electoral Commission will be allowed to visit the abovementioned institutions where required for the purposes of voter registration, or special voting, to the extent and in the manner set out in Directions by the relevant Cabinet member.

 

12. Is the sale of liquor permitted?

 

The sale of liquor at any licensed premises for off-site consumption is permitted between 09h00 and 17h00, Monday to Friday. Such permission does not extend to Saturday, Sunday and Public holidays.

The sale of liquor at any licensed premises for on-site consumption is permitted subject to strict adherence to the curfew of 00h01.

 

Liquor sold in contravention of the above amounts to an offence in terms of the Regulations.

 

13. Is the sale of tobacco permitted?

 

The Regulations do not contain specific provisions dealing with the sale of tobacco, however, the sale of tobacco was permitted as per the President’s address on 15 August 2020 and confirmed by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister on 17 August 2020.

 

TRAVEL

 

14. Will the country’s borders be opened under Alert Level 1?

 

The 18 partially operational land borders will now be fully operational, however the 35 land borders currently closed, will remain closed.

 

Traveling to and from the Republic is allowed, subject to the following conditions:

 

• As of 1 October 2020, all travelers from the African Continent and from countries outside the African Continent with a low rate of COVID-19 infection and transmission, will be allowed into the Republic subject to:

 

◦ the traveler providing a valid certificate of a negative test obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel; and

◦ in the event of the traveler's failure to submit a certificate as proof of a negative test, the traveler will be required to quarantine at his or her own costs.

 

• To temporarily control entry into the Republic from countries outside the African Continent, the relevant Cabinet members shall, after consultation with Minister of Health, determine in directions –


◦ criteria for controlling entry into the Republic, from countries with a high COVID-19 infection and transmission rate; and

◦ the list of such  countries with a high COVID-19 infection and transmission rate, which may be amended from time to time.

 

• International travel from countries listed as having a high COVID-19 infection and transmission rate, will remain prohibited except for business travel which may be allowed with the approval of the Cabinet member responsible for home affairs.

 

15. Are there any exemptions for daily cross-border commuters?

 

Daily commuters from neighbouring countries who attend or teach at a school in the Republic are allowed entry into and exit from the Republic, subject to compliance with protocols relating to:

• screening for COVID-19 and quarantine or isolation, where necessary;

• the wearing of a face mask;

• transportation; and

• sanitisation and social distancing measures as per the relevant health protocols on safety and prevention of the spread of COVID-19.

 

16. Are seaports open under Alert Level 1?

 

All commercial seaports will be opened.

 

17. Is international air travel permitted under Alert Level 1?

 

International air travel is restricted to the following airports:

• OR Tambo International Airport;

• King Shaka International Airport; and

• Cape Town International Airport.

 

The resumption of services for visa applications shall be determined in directions issued by the Cabinet member responsible for home affairs.

 

The Cabinet member responsible for home affairs in consultation with the Cabinet members responsible for health and transport must develop International Travel Containment Protocols to be issued in directions, to ensure that entry into South African ports of entry will only be allowed subject to adherence to the directions, to ensure COVID-19 positive travelers are not allowed into the Republic.

 

18. Is domestic air travel allowed under Alert Level 1?

 

The Minister of Transport must, after consultation with the Cabinet members responsible for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, health, police, trade, industry and competition, and justice and correctional services, issue directions for the resumption of different modes of public transport to cater for the gradual return to work of people, in respect of:

• domestic air travel;

• rail, bus services, taxi services;

• e-hailing services; and

• private vehicles.

 

19. Are there any restrictions on public transport?

 

Buses and taxis may not carry more than 70% of the licensed capacity for long distance travel (200kms or more); and may carry 100% of the licensed capacity for any trip not regarded as long distance travel (less than 200kms).

 

Any member of the public not wearing a face mask will be barred from boarding or being conveyed in public transport by the driver, owner or operator of such public transport.

 

The directions issued by the Minister of Transport will set out health protocols that must be adhered to and steps to be followed for the limitation of the exposure of members of the public using public transport to COVID-19.

 

WORK

 

20. Who is permitted to return to work?

 

All persons who are able to work from home must do so. However, persons will be permitted to perform any type of work outside the home, and to travel to and from work and for work purposes under Alert Level 1, unless the work is listed as an economic exclusion in the Regulations. There must be strict compliance with health protocols and social distancing measures, and the return to work must be phased-in, in order to put in place measures to make the workplace COVID-19 ready. It is of paramount importance that re-opening of work places is done in a manner that avoids and reduces risks of infection.

 

21. Which industries are permitted to operate under Alert Level 1?

 

All businesses may operate except those set out below:

• Night clubs

• Night vigils

• The 35 land borders that remain closed

• Initiation practices

• Passenger ships for international leisure purposes

• Attendance of any sporting event by spectators

• International sports events

• Exclusions relating to public transport services as set out in the directions issued by the Cabinet member responsible for transport

• Exclusions relating to education services as set out in the directions issued by the Cabinet member responsible for education

 

22. What conditions and restrictions are applicable to businesses resuming work?


Relevant health protocols and social distancing measures for persons employed in private residences must be adhered to.

 

Relevant health protocols and social distancing measures set out in directions must be adhered to, in addition to the occupational health and safety directions issued by the responsible Cabinet member, and applicable labour legislation.

 

Firms must adhere to any sector-specific health protocols intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the sector concerned.

 

Sector-specific health protocols may address matters such as work rotation, staggered working hours, shift systems, remote working arrangements, special measures affecting persons with greater vulnerabilities or similar measures, in order to achieve social distancing, protect employees or limit congestion in public transport and at the workplace.

 

Where sector-specific health protocols are still to be developed, they must be developed and issued by the Cabinet members responsible for a sector in consultation with the Cabinet member responsible for health.

 

Furthermore, industries, businesses and entities, both private and in the public sector, which are permitted to operate must:


• Designate a COVID-19 compliance officer to oversee the implementation of a Workplace Plan and strict adherence to the required health standards and hygiene protocols relating to COVID-19 at the workplace.

 

• Develop a plan containing:

 

◦ measures to ensure that the workplace meets the standards of health protocols;

◦ adequate space for employees and social distancing measures for the public and service providers, as required;

◦ retain a copy of the plan for inspection; and

◦ the details of the COVID-19 compliance officer.

 

• A person in control of a retail store or institution must:

 

◦ take steps to ensure that customers keep a distance of at least one and a half metres from each other and that all directions in respect of health protocols and social distancing measures are strictly adhered to; and

◦ designate a compliance officer to ensure that safety controls are strictly adhered to and display the name of the compliance officer prominently in the store or institution in a visible area.

 

Conclusion

The National State of Disaster has been extended for another month until 15 October and it is yet to be seen how long the State of Disaster will continue to be extended. Whether the Regulations issued under the previous alert levels would be re-instated, having regard to the fact that they have been withdrawn, or whether they would be amended, should the country revert back to the higher alert levels in the event of a “second wave” of infections being experienced, is something we will be monitoring carefully.

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