Ramaphosa’s announcement of new lockdown strategy.
By Seth Meyer
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 4 of VARSITY News.
President Ramaphosa announced to the nation on the 23rd April 2020 the South African government’s plan for a country struggling under the socio-economic impact of total lockdown. The announcement came with seven days till the end of a 35-day shutdown of non-essential movement, business and activity.
In his address, Ramaphosa presented to the South African people a “risk adjusted strategy” that would break down into five separate levels of lockdown. Under the current state of lockdown, the country was at Level 5. From May 1st, Level 4 lockdown regulations would be in effect. “Our people need to eat” said the president. “They need to earn a living. Companies need to produce and to trade. They need to generate revenue and keep their employees in employment.”
Ramaphosa described Level 4 as allowing some activities, subject to extreme precaution. The lockdown level will apply on a national scale, with separate levels allowed at the discretion of each province, district and metro. Movement between provinces is prohibited, with the exception of transportation of goods, essential services and under exceptional circumstances (i.e. funerals) and all citizens making use of public transport are required to wear masks. Workplaces regarded as permissible sectors under Level 4, would be allowed to resume activity with no more than one third of their workforce and with adequate preparations made to ensure the safety of employees. Ramaphosa also announced the allowance of public exercise between 06:00 and 09:00 within a five kilometre radius of your home, a provision that many South Africans eagerly made use of, with popular running and walking routes such as Sea Point Promenade full of people on the morning of May 1st. All non-essential gatherings, social and religious, remain prohibited.
The president also announced that the sale of cigarettes would be permitted, a decision that was later rescinded. The sale and purchase of alcohol and cigarettes remains illegal under Level 4 lockdown. This remains a hotly contested topic amongst South Africans, along with the plan for the resumption of schooling and education, which has been left to the discretion of the Department of Basic Education, who initially proposed a return date for some pupils to return as early as May 6th. This proposal has since been scrapped after criticism from parents, teachers and staff. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has proposed a return date of June 1st for Grade 7 and 12 pupils, stressing that the final decision regarding reopening would be made in conjunction with the National Command Council.
In his address, the President also outlined the measures undertaken to combat the pandemic, including the deployment of over 70 000 defence force personnel and the gearing up of the clothing and textile industry to mass produce face masks. In his closing words, Ramaphosa said, “There are times when we must endure hardship and difficulty so that we can enjoy freedom and prosperity into the future.”
The president urged the continual observation of social distancing measures and thanked South Africans for their efforts saying, “we must not give up now”.
As of May 5th, there are 7657 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Rainbow Nation, with 145 deaths and 2746 recoveries.