Ebrahim Patel indicated that the government could soon give a green light to the remaining parts of the economy to reopen if agreement is reached on safety protocols.
Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel indicated that the government could soon give a green light to the remaining parts of the economy to reopen if agreement is reached on safety protocols.
On Thursday, the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) detailed some of the regulations which would be imposed on socio-economic sectors as the national lockdown is being eased to level 3 from Monday.
Patel said the strict lockdown had helped the country raise resources and better prepare medical and protective supplies to help manage the virus whose infections are set to continue increasing.
“If level 5 and to some extent level 4 was based on detailed regulation that was directed at having as many people at home as possible, level 3 instead is based on most South Africans being at work. That is the big shift,” Patel said.
The NCCC, among other easing measures, has allowed for the resumption of religious gatherings and sale of liquor.
Patel said the only parts of economic activity that were not allowed to operated were the ones where the risk of infection was viewed as very high due to people being compelled to be in very close contact, where the prescribed 1.5 mitre distance was difficult or impossible to maintain, including restaurants for sit-down meals, beauty and hairdressing services.
“We need more time to develop those protocols and to work with those sectors to see how we can safely open up more of those sectors. We will be engaging on a continuous basis with all of these sectors to see at what point it would be possible for more activities to open up, and what will be the protocols,” he said.
The move to reopen places of worship and alcohol sale generated differences of opinion in the country.
EFF leader Julius Malema called on South Africans to reject reopening churches and instead pray in their homes as church gatherings were contributing to Covid-19 infections.
“Look what the church did in Bloemfontein. We have evidence of what the church can do. Do not go to church. We call upon the caring leaders of religion not to connive with white capital to kill black people. Our people can still pray at home and our leaders can still reach out to our people through different methods,” Malema said.
Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu argued that the government had put in place regulations that were aimed at ensuring that Covid-19 infections, which have now surpassed 25 000 and seen more 500 people dead, were eliminated.
“Normally we have loads and loads of people coming to our churches. That has now been curtailed to the number 50 but that number must ensure that there is social distancing. We think that as the NCCC and cabinet we have taken the necessary precautions that churches must adhere to,” Mthembu said.
The measures include the prescription of face masks and a ban on singing.
Alcohol has been flagged as a major contributor in clogging up much needed trauma hospital units due to related injuries and for its potential to aid the spread of infections.
Patel said liquor sales, which would be extended to licenced taverns and shebeens, would only be permitted between Monday and Thursdays from 9am to 5pm.
“We have stressed to the industry the continuing risks and they have undertaken to act responsibly,” he said.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma confirmed the ban on tobacco sale, except for the export market.
Dlamini Zuma said while some South Africans lamented the difficult measures imposed by the government in the past two months, they were necessary if the country was to defeat the virus and its impact.
“We must endure today so that we can secure the future of this beautiful country,” she said.