On Tuesday, 18 August 2020, at 0h00, the South African national lockdown was downgraded from Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 2. Regulations prescribing the legal parameters of the Alert Level 2 restrictions and allowances were published on the same day.

For many South Africans, the Alert Level 2 Regulations (“the Regulations”) provide the first substantial glimmer of relief after enduring the suffocating effect of four-plus months of national lockdown. South African society, so long laboring under the South African government’s enthusiastic response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the seemingly endless limitations on almost all aspects of life in South Africa, is finally nearing a semblance of pre-pandemic normality.

This article briefly discusses the amendments introduced by the Regulations which are most relevant to the general functioning of society. Please note that not all provisions of the Regulations will be discussed, but should the reader wish to view the full Regulations, they can do so here:

http://www.gpwonline.co.za/Gazettes/Gazettes/43620_17-8_CoopGov.pdf

During Alert Level 2 the following restrictions will apply:

  1. Relevantly the Regulations maintain the compulsory daily curfew from 22h00 to 04h00 and each person is obliged to remain in his or her place of residence during this period unless, as under the Alert Level 3 Regulations, he/she is in possession of the requisite permit. These permits will only be issued where a person is performing a service other than those disallowed by the Regulations (which will be discussed further below), or where he/she needs to attend to a security or health emergency.

 

  1. Pursuant to the recent proliferation of tenant-landlord disputes stemming from the impact of the national lockdown, provisions aimed at reinforcing the effectiveness of the Rental Housing Tribunal (a public body which adjudicates rental housing disputes) have been inserted at section 54 of the Regulations. These allow for the creation of procedures for the urgent hearing of disputes, and the granting of certain forms of relief, by the Tribunal. The amendments further list certain specific forms of conduct which shall constitute an ‘unfair practice’, in addition to those protections afforded to tenants and landlords under the Rental Housing Act, No. 50 of 1999.

 

  1. Those partaking in vigorous exercise are spared the necessity of having to wear a face mask in public. However, the degree of exercise required to qualify it as ‘vigorous’ is bizarrely still absent from the Regulations.

 

  1. Social gatherings are now permitted at a person’s place of residence, provided that the total number of visitors does not exceed 10. Interestingly, the use of the word ‘visitors’ and not, perhaps, ‘attendees’, or ‘persons’ seems to indicate that those resident at the premises where the social gathering is hosted, will not be included in the 10-person tally.

 

  1. The following public places have now been permitted to re-open their doors to the public, subject of course to the required health and social distancing protocols:

 

  • Fitness centers and gyms, subject to a limitation of 50 persons or less;

 

  • Sports grounds and fields, beaches and public parks, museums, galleries, libraries and archives;

 

  • Bars, taverns, shebeens, and similar establishments, subject to a limitation of 50 persons or less;

 

  • All accommodation establishments and tour operators, provided that the number of persons permitted in such establishments do not occupy more than 50% of the available floorspace, with patrons being distanced from one another by at least 1.5 meters.

 

  1. The sale of alcohol by licensed premises for off-site consumption is allowed between the hours of 09h00 to 17h00 from Mondays to Thursdays. No alcohol may be sold for off site consumption on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays or public holidays. On the other hand, the sale of alcohol by licensed premises for on-site consumption is allowed without restriction regarding operating hours, subject to compliance with the curfew mentioned at paragraph 1 above.

 

  1. The sale of tobacco and tobacco products has been permitted.

 

  1. Intra-and inter-provincial leisure travel, whether by road or air, is permitted.

 

  1. All business sectors may commence commercial operations save for the following:

 

  • Night clubs;

 

  • International passenger air travel and passenger ships for leisure purposes;

 

  • Spectator attendance at sporting events;

 

  • Any and all international sporting events; and

 

  • Certain exclusions as directed by the Minster of Transport, in relation to public transport services, and the Minister of Education, in respect of education services.

 

  1. Businesses with more then 100 employees which work together in a group on shared floorspace must, where possible, make provision for minimizing the number of employees present in the workplace at any given time through staff rotation, staggered working hours, shift systems, remote working arrangements or similar measures. The reasons underlying this restriction are firstly, the need to maintain adequate social distancing and secondly, the prevention of potential overcrowding of public transport services.

 

  1. Employers must ensure that appropriate measures are employed in respect of employees who are over the age of 60 and/or those employees who have pre-existing comorbidities, who are returning to the workplace.

Should you wish for us to furnish you with further guidance or advice on the application or interpretation of the Alert Level 2 Regulations, we invite you to contact us via the various contact methods provided for on this website, and one of our attorneys will gladly assist.

For further practical guidance on the application of the Regulations, and for a more interactive engagement on this topic, please attend and participate in our regular COVID-19 Webinars, the next of which will be hosted by the firm on Thursday, 20 August 2020 at 17h00.