As the government seeks to relax some of the rules governing the nationwide lockdown, access to sit-in restaurants, bars and sporting events would likely remain restricted, according to a leaked, draft discussion document prepared by the Presidency.
Confirming the validity of the draft document, Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said it was prepared as an early input into the development of a “risk-adjusted approach” to resuming economic activity.
She added it had changed substantially and would therefore caution anyone on relying on it for accurate information.
The risk-adjusted approach is being finalised and will be elaborated on by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday evening.
As the draft input shows, however, the president will have to walk the tightrope between “lives” and “livelihoods”.
According to the draft recommendations, the public in South Africa would have restricted access to the following sectors for the next phase:
– Sit-in restaurants and hotels.
– Bars and shebeens.
– Conference and convention centres.
– Entertainment venues, including cinemas, theatres, and concerts.
– Sporting events.
– Religious, cultural and social gatherings.
Passengers on all modes of transportation must wear a cloth mask to be allowed entry into the vehicle. Hand sanitisers must be made available, and all passengers must sanitise their hands before entering.
Public transportation vehicles must be sanitised on a daily basis.
A proposed system of five “alert levels” will categorise business sectors into different risk categories.
To make the determination of which sectors should be allowed to resume activity at each level of alert, three criteria should be considered:
– Risk of transmission (including the ease of implementing mitigation measures).
– Expected impact on the sector of the continued lockdown (including prior vulnerability).
– Value of the sector to the economy (e.g. contribution to GDP, multiplier effects, export earnings).
Under the proposed five “alert levels”, certain commodities and services will be available or still unavailable depending on the severity of the “alert level”.
With regards to the workplace, the draft document makes the following recommendations:
– Industries are encouraged to adopt a work-from-home strategy where possible, and all staff who can work remotely must be allowed to do so.
– Workers above the age of 60 as well as those with co-morbidities identified by the Department of Health should be offered a work-from-home option or allowed to remain on leave with full pay.
– There should be workplace protocols in place that would include disease surveillance and prevention of the spread of infection.
– All employers to screen staff on a daily basis for symptoms of Covid-19, including a symptom check as well as a temperature assessment.
– All employees to use a cloth mask especially where social distancing is not possible.
– Work environment to have sanitisers available or hand-washing facilities with soap.
– Stringent social distancing measures should be implemented in the workplace.
The Department of Health will issue a comprehensive guidance note stipulating health and safety practices for returning to work. The proposed new rules include this regulation: “No gatherings of more than 10 people outside of a workplace will be permitted.”
This would suggest the strict stay-at-home ban may be lifted – if physical distancing is practiced.
But it is not yet known if this will apply to general freedom of movement in public, or activities such as outdoor exercises.
Owners and managers
Owners and managers of all businesses, across the entire economy, would need to ensure the following are in place:
– In addition to generally applicable health and safety protocols, each sector must agree upon a Covid-19 prevention and mitigation plan with the employment and labour minister, health minister and any other minister relevant to the sector.
– Individual businesses or workplaces must have Covid-19 risk assessments and plans in place, and must conduct worker education on Covid-19 and protection measures.
– Identification and protection of vulnerable employees, safe transport of employees, screening of employees on entering the workplace and prevention of viral spread in the workplace.
– Cleaning of surfaces and shared equipment, good ventilation, managing sick employees.
– Monitoring systems must be in place to (1) ensure compliance with safety protocols and (2) identify infections among employees.
While the above has not been released in a final format, it gives the country an indication of what may lie ahead for the foreseeable future.
Ramaphosa will release the final plans of South Africa’s “new normal” on Thursday evening.
– Additional reporting by Kyle Cowan