Back to work for 1.5m South Africans as lockdown rules eased

STHEMBILE CELE AND QAANITAH HUNTER

TIME FOR SOME TO WORK: The stringent laws that restrict the movement of private citizens remain, with only a few concessions that will be welcomed by citizens cooped up at home.
Picture: AFP

Masks on in public and everyone under curfew at night

The economy was the biggest winner in the government’s relaxed Covid-19 regulations announced yesterday, as more than 1.5-million workers are expected to return to their jobs next week under the level four lockdown that begins on Friday.

The government appears to have heeded appeals from business to open the economy after 30 days of lockdown, with most sectors expected to open their doors for the first time since the national lockdown was implemented on March 27.

However, the stringent laws that restrict the movement of private citizens remain, with only a few concessions that will be welcomed by citizens cooped up at home.

Although South Africans will be allowed to buy items that they have not been able to for the past month – including cellphones and computers, warm clothes and cigarettes – and order hot food for delivery, the government has introduced a curfew to restrict the movement of individuals between 8pm and 5am.

House visits, gatherings and movement between provinces remain criminal offences. It will also be compulsory for citizens to wear a cloth face mask in public.

Yesterday, co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and trade & industry minister Ebrahim Patel announced that 40% of the workforce is expected to gradually return to work from next week to rescue an economy said to have lost between R14bn and R20bn a day since last month.

Patel said moving to reopen the economy “has been a difficult and complex process and a hard balancing act”.

The economy was the biggest winner in the government’s relaxed Covid-19 regulations announced yesterday, as more than 1.5-million workers are expected to return to their jobs next week under the level four lockdown that begins on Friday.

The government appears to have heeded appeals from business to open the economy after 30 days of lockdown, with most sectors expected to open their doors for the first time since the national lockdown was implemented on March 27.

However, the stringent laws that restrict the movement of private citizens remain, with only a few concessions that will be welcomed by citizens cooped up at home.

Although South Africans will be allowed to buy items that they have not been able to for the past month – including cellphones and computers, warm clothes and cigarettes – and order hot food for delivery, the government has introduced a curfew to restrict the movement of individuals between 8pm and 5am.

House visits, gatherings and movement between provinces remain criminal offences. It will also be compulsory for citizens to wear a cloth face mask in public.

Yesterday, co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and trade & industry minister Ebrahim Patel announced that 40% of the workforce is expected to gradually return to work from next week to rescue an economy said to have lost between R14bn and R20bn a day since last month.

Patel said moving to reopen the economy “has been a difficult and complex process and a hard balancing act”.

Dlamini-Zuma warned that even though the virus is under control for now, SA could go back to level five if “things deteriorate”.

The easing of restrictions was widely welcomed by business and cautiously by trade unions, but questions were raised by both about the lifting of the cigarette sales ban.

Business Unity SA CEO Cas Coovadia said although it was yet to formulate an official position, Busa welcomed the reopening of businesses. “At first glance we welcome further opening of businesses but the important thing obviously is to maintain the health protocols in place and be guided by the department of health.”

Black Business Council president Sandile Zungu welcomed the phased reopening of the economy, saying the proposed return for some sectors provides an opportunity for business to shoulder some of the burdens of Covid screening and testing.

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