Due to economic concerns, South Africa’s president has announced an easing of some lockdown restrictions beginning next month. However, the president warned that most people should remain at home, public gatherings remain banned, and the country’s borders will stay closed.
From 1 May, some businesses will be allowed to reopen, and a third of their employees can return to work. Some schools will also reopen but with strict limits likely on class sizes.
The country has some of the most stringent coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the world, but security forces have struggled to enforce them. Most people are still being urged to stay at home but will be allowed to go out and exercise when the new rules come into effect.
President Ramaphosa said the month-long lockdown has been working and has slowed the pandemic’s progress. But people need to eat, and to earn a living.
Since 27 March only essential service providers like health workers, financial services providers and retail workers continued working. Businesses that provide essential services have been applying for a special permit from the government that allows their members of staff to go outside.
The restrictions have included no jogging outside, no sales of alcohol or cigarettes, no dog-walking, no leaving home except for essential trips. Heavy fines and prison sentences were put in place for law-breaking.
How SA intends to ease Lockdown
Under the new plans, South Africa’s alert level will drop from level 5 to level 4. Mines will be opened though many at reduced capacity. Financial and agricultural sectors will also reopen, according to local media, and supermarkets will be allowed to sell more stock.
Buses, taxis and private vehicles will be allowed on the roads at any time of day. However, movement between provinces is still banned and international flights are cancelled except for those repatriating citizens.
Smaller gatherings of fewer than 10 people will be permitted, as will the purchase of cigarettes. But bars and the sale of alcohol remain outlawed. Social distancing will be enforced.
South Africa’s government has also announced new welfare grants to help South Africa’s poorest families. Millions of people have lost their incomes, and aid organisations warn of growing signs of desperation.