Level 1 lockdown: Will restrictions on gatherings ease?

With government having extended the National State of Disaster until 15 October, South Africans can be fairly sure that they will endure lockdown restrictions until that point at the very least. The extension date does add credence to the hope that a move to Level 1 is nearby though, with President Cyril Ramaphosa having offered a few glimmers of hope on Thursday evening. 

Ramaphosa, as well as Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, have both suggested that changes to the lockdown regulations currently in place are soon to be rolled out, with COVID-19 case reports dwindling and the economy in dire need of recovery. 

One of the results of a shift to Level 1 lockdown may well entail an expansion on laws governing the amount of people permitted to gather in one place, which would have significant ramifications for a number of industries. 

Ramaphosa: Level 1 shift rests on evaluation of data  

Speaking to the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) on Wednesday 9 September, Ramaphosa said that the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) was also considering requests from the sporting fraternity, the entertainment sector, hotels and tourism for gathering limits to be eased.

"We are considering all of that as we do an evaluation of where the infection rate is. We will be able to give consideration to all of these proposals and get advice.

He said that before any decision could be made on behavioural protocols during advanced lockdown stages, government needs to have been provided comprehensive advise from experts monitoring the spread of the virus.  

"This is where we will need advice from the Medical Advisory Committee as well as from our Natjoints which is the real engine of monitoring our coronavirus approach," he said. "So we will be giving consideration to all that."

Mkhize: 'Economy must open as soon as possible'  

Speaking to Radio Islam on Thursday, Mkhize said that Ramaphosa will provide an update on the lockdown restrictions currently in place "in the next few days" and said that calls from religious bodies to expand on the gathering laws were warranted and being considered. 

"Up to now it was encouraged that we should not increase the numbers [of people permitted to gather together], but Level 2 numbers are very encouraging and I think it is a consideration worth putting into place. We have to give a considered response though." 

He said that with the economy continuing to open up, it would naturally follow for industries currently stifled by the restrictions to be provided relief with relaxations on gathering restrictions. 

"Many other social activities are beginning to open, so we need to look at the best containment methods to impose. It is encouraging that for two weeks there has not been a big upsurge as we move into Level 2 so [relaxation under Level 1]  is under consideration." 

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