SUMMARY OF THE REGULATIONS APPLICABLE OVER THE LOCK DOWN PERIOD
In his statement to the nation delivered on Monday, 23 March 2020, His Excellency the President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an escalation of measures to combat the global pandemic, COVID-19.
The National Coronavirus Command Council has decided to enforce a nation-wide lockdown for 21 days with effect from midnight Thursday, 26 March 2020, until midnight Thursday, 16 April 2020.
Below is a summary of the two sets of regulations published on 25 March 2020, which set out the rules which all South Africans have to follow, with effect from midnight Thursday 26 March, 2020, till midnight Thursday, 16 April 2020.
(The “Lock Down Period”)
CLOSURE OF FACILITIES
Municipal public spaces, facilities and offices
Control measures have been put in place in relation to public spaces, facilities and offices to ensure social distancing to prevent the risk of transmission.
Municipalities have closed all public spaces and facilities that do not provide essential services, including:
Beaches including swimming
Community halls and recreation centres
Museums and art galleries
All markets including street vendors, other than food markets;
Municipalities must monitor social gatherings as follows:
Cemeteries, crematoria and funerals – during funerals, affected families must be encouraged to observe recommended hygiene practices, limit the number of mourners to 50
The handling and disposal of human remains brought about as a result of COVID -19, must be done in terms of the guidelines and protocols that have been developed by the National Department of Health
Community gatherings, other than funerals, must be cancelled and stopped immediately
Wedding receptions and celebrations must be cancelled for the duration of the lockdown and all periods of restricted movement.
Municipalities have stopped the issuing of permits for marches, protests and the handover of petitions.
Closure of Public Spaces Including Places of Worship, Gatherings, Shops and Retail Outlets
The following places and premises will be closed to the public over the “Lock Down Period”:
Any place or premises normally open to the public where religious, cultural, sporting, entertainment, recreational, exhibitional, organisational or similar activities may take place, including
public parks, beaches and swimming pools
open-air food markets
fetes and bazaars
hotels, lodges and guest houses, except to the extent that they are required for remaining tourists confined to hotels, lodges and guest houses
private and public game reserves except to the extent that they are required for remaining tourists confined to private and public game reserves
holiday resorts except to the extent that they are required for remaining tourists confined to such holiday resort.
Any place or premises normally open to the public where goods other than essential goods are procured, acquired, disposed of or sold; and any place or premises normally open to the public such as:
on-consumption premises, including taverns, shebeens, and shisanyama where liquor is sold
off-consumption premises, including bottle stores, where liquor is sold;
off-consumption areas in supermarkets where liquor is sold;
theatres and cinemas
shopping malls and centres (excluding grocery stores and pharmacies)
taxi ranks, bus depots, train stations and airports; and
any other place or premises determined by the Cabinet member responsible for cooperative governance and traditional affairs by direction in the Gazette.
MANUFACTURE, DISTRIBUTION, PROVISION AND SALE OF ESSENTIAL GOODS AND SERVICES
The President in declaring the lockdown, made exception to production, distribution and sale of essential goods and services.
“Essential services and goods” are as follows:
the existing essential services as defined in terms of the Labour Relations Act, 1995
Medical, health, laboratory and medical services
Disaster management, fire prevention, firefighting and emergency services
Financial services necessary to maintain the functioning of the banking and payments environment, including the JSE and similar exchanges, as well as insurance services
Production and sale of essential goods
Grocery stores, including spaza shops
Electricity, water, gas and fuel production, supply and maintenance
Essential municipal services
Care services and social relief of distress provided to older persons, the mentally ill, persons with disabilities, the sick, and children
Funeral services, including mortuaries
Wildlife management, anti-poaching, animal care and veterinary services
Newspaper, broadcasting and telecommunications infrastructure and services
Production and sale of any chemicals, hygiene products, and pharmaceuticals for the medical or retail sector
Cleaning, sanitation, sewerage, waste and refuse removal services
Services related to the essential functioning of courts, judicial officers, the Master of the High Court, sheriffs and legal practitioners required for those services
Essential SARS services defined by the Commissioner of SARS
Police, peace officers, traffic officers, military medical personnel and soldiers, correctional services officials and traffic management services
Postal services and courier services related to the transport of medical products
Private security services
Gold, gold refinery, coal and essential mining
Accommodation used for persons rendering essential services, quarantine, isolation and the lockdown
Production, manufacturing, supply, logistics, transport, delivery, critical maintenance and repair in relation to the rendering of essential services including components and equipment
Transport services for persons rendering essential services and goods, and transportation of patients
Transport and logistics in respect of essential goods to neighbouring countries.
Only those goods and services that appear on this list can be manufactured, distributed and sold over the “Lock Down Period”.
Anything outside of these lists will not be entertained.
The regulations also place important obligations on the heads of “institutions” that are engaged in the supply or distribution of an essential good or service, including:
The head must determine the essential services to be performed by his or her institution and must determine the essential staff who will perform those services. This function can be delegated
The head must designate persons performing essential services in writing. A specific form is prescribed in this regard, which must be completed and permission granted
All persons performing essential services, obtaining essential goods or seeking medical attention, may be subjected to screening for the Coronavirus by an enforcement officer
FOLLOWING THE ABOVE:
Grocery Stores, Pharmacies, and some Other Businesses are Due to Remain Open.
Only shops and stores selling “essential services and goods” will remain open, being
Essential finance systems, such as the JSE
Supermarkets and registered spazas
Companies involved in making or distributing food, basic goods, and medical supplies.
Importantly, all shops selling essential goods and services including municipally registered spaza’s may remain open during the “Lock Down Period”– regardless of whether they are foreign owned.
See Transport below where provision has been made for the transport of essential workers.
Harvests, And Livestock Auctions, Are Due To Go Ahead
Specific measures will be taken to ensure that food production and imports continue.
Livestock auctions will be allowed to continue, albeit with restrictions on the number of people allowed to attend.
Upcoming harvests will be accommodated and imports of agricultural commodities will continue.
Closure of Restaurants, Cafes, Bars, Coffee Shops
ALL restaurants, cafes, bars, coffee shops will be closed over the “Lock Down Period”.
Such service providers are not included on the list of “essential services”.
No Food Delivery Services
ALL food delivery services may not operate and are suspended over the “Lock Down Period”.
No Liquor Sales or Distribution
The selling of liquor is strictly prohibited over the “Lock Down Period”- so No liquor will be sold anywhere by anyone over the “Lock Down Period”.
This prohibition is applicable to all outlets including supermarkets with liquor licences.
Equally, the movement of liquor between any two points is also strictly prohibited.
ATMS and Bank Branches will have Cash Available.
Banks will coordinate among themselves and share resources to ensure that bank notes are available at ATMs and bank branches.
All long-distance passenger rail services, both public and private, will stop operations for the duration of the “Lock Down Period”, including:
Shosholoza Meyl, Premier Classe and Blue Train operated by PRASA and Transnet
private rail operators such as Rovos Rail
all commuter rail services such as Metrorail and Gautrain services
All international and domestic flights are prohibited, during the “Lock Down Period”, irrespective of the risk category of the country of origin.
Only essential air cargo will be allowed to be brought in to South Africa during the “Lock Down Period”, however, cargo from any high-risk country must be sanitized.
The ban on cruise ships calling at any of our Sea Ports will be strictly enforced during the “Lock Down Period”.
Essential cargo will be allowed to be brought in through 8 Sea Ports, over the “Lock Down Period”, however, cargo from high risk countries must be sanitized.
Minibus-Taxis will be allowed to transport essential services workers and those allowed to make the necessary permitted movements under permit., subject to limited operating times as follows: from 05h00 to 09h00; and again from 16h00 to 20h00.
Taxi Operators must implement the following measures:
all minibus-taxis must be sanitized after every trip
all taxi ranks must be sanitized at regular interval
Where appropriate, government will provide assistance.
Sanitizers used in all taxi vehicles must have a minimum of 60% alcohol content.
As part of the relief measures for small businesses in distress as announced by the President, those taxis that have been financed by the National Taxi Finance administered by the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA) will be granted a 3 months repayment holiday.
Commercial banks are also considering similar measures.
Metered taxis and e-hailing / uber
Metered Taxis and e-Hailing / uber vehicles will be allowed to transport essential services workers and those allowed to make the necessary permitted movements under permit, subject to limited operating times as follows: from 05h00 to 09h00; and again from 16h00 to 20h00.
Metered Taxis and e-Hailing / uber vehicles must be sanitized after each journey.
The industry will take responsibility for this.
Where appropriate government will assist.
The number of passengers each vehicle is allowed to carry will be reduced.
A vehicle licensed to carry up to 4 people will only be permitted to load 1 person.
A vehicle licensed to carry up to 8 passengers will only be permitted to load a maximum of 3 passengers.
Sanitizers used in all taxi vehicles must have a minimum of 60% alcohol content.
Limited bus operations will be allowed to transport essential services workers and those allowed to make the necessary permitted movements under permit.
Cross-Border Road Transport
All cross-border road passenger movements will be prohibited for the duration of the “Lock Down Period”.
Cross-border freight movement for essential goods will continue to and from our neighbouring countries during “Lock Down Period”.
During the “Lock Down Period” Vehicle Testing Centres and Drivers’ Licence Testing Centres (DLTCs) will be closed.
Should your drivers’ licence expire during the “Lock Down Period” it shall remain valid until the end of the “Lock Down Period”, with a grace period of 14 working days, and during which period, one must apply for a renewal.
A skeleton staff for purposes of safe road operations, clearing of accidents, maintenance of tunnels as well as road traffic enforcement will be retained.
The Minister of Transport may also issue further Directions covering the following areas:
Movement of cargo (aviation, maritime, road – including cross border). This will cover measures such as prohibition of crew change and movement of essential cargo across all modes of transport.
Limiting movement of allowed essential public transport to specific times.
Movement of cross-border road transport.
Suspension of services rendered by government entities.
Closure of Vehicle Testing Centres and Drivers’ Licence Testing Centres (DLTCs).
Expiry of drivers licences.
FOLLOWING THE ABOVE:
Stay at Home
Everyone must stay home during the shutdown, except workers classed as critical such as:
Health workers, in both the public and private sectors
Security services, including police, soldiers, traffic officers
Persons in the production, supply and distribution of food and other basic goods
Persons in essential banking systems
People who maintain water, electricity, and similar systems
Persons who care for the elderly and sick, including at old-age homes
Persons involved in property protection security, such as private security guards
Back-office workers who process salary and wage payments
Employees of services who transport food to homes, including online stores
Those who transport food, fuel, and other basic goods between SADC countries.
Every person is confined to his or her place of residence unless it is strictly necessary to leave the residence for purposes of
performing an essential service
obtaining an essential good or service
collecting a social grant, or
seeking emergency, life-saving, or chronic medical attention.
Running, Walking And Leaving Your Home For Exercise
This is prohibited.
In some countries lockdowns specifically made provision for jogging close to home, or other forms of outdoor exercise done with care to avoid contact with other people. Some local governments even encouraged outdoor exercise, as a mental health measure.
In a briefing on Wednesday it was announced that you will not be allowed to exercise out side your home / residential property, or walk your dog over the “Lock Down Period”.
Public Gatherings and Funerals
Every “gathering” is prohibited, except for funerals.
A gathering is defined as “any assembly, concourse or procession of more than 100 persons, wholly or partially in the open air or in a building or premises”.
The number of persons who may attend the funeral is limited to 50.
No night vigils must be held and all safety measures must be complied with.
You will be allowed to take your pets to the vet.
Essential and emergency travel is expected to be specifically allowed during the lockdown, in general terms.
On Tuesday the government confirmed that veterinary services will continue to operate.
Necessary trips for pet food are also likely to be covered under rules around buying groceries.
Movement Between Provinces, Metropolitan And District Areas
Movement between provinces is prohibited.
Movement between the metropolitan and district areas is prohibited.
Movement Cross Border
All borders of South Africa will be closed except for the transportation of fuel and essential goods.
However, permission may be granted to a person to enter South Africa for medical attention for a life-threatening condition.
Foreign tourists who have remained in South Africa must remain in their places of temporary residence. They may be subjected to screening for the Coronavirus and be quarantined or isolated.
Unfortunately, no solid guidance has been issued by the Government on how employers are to protect and safeguard their employees’ over this “Lock Down Period”.
Employees who won’t be allowed to work during the lockdown period of three weeks, which starts on Thursday night, are to a large degree at the mercy of their employers.
Here are some extracts of some news articles concerning the treatment of employees and the “rights” of their employer to force employees to take leave over the “Lock Down Period”.
“While government has encouraged all businesses to continue to pay their employees, who may be stuck at home and won’t be able to work during this time, many companies can’t afford this and are considering other options.
Your employer will be within their rights to place you on forced leave during the lockdown period – and for many South Africans, that may end up being the least worse-case scenario. This may include scrapping the traditional shutdown period over December and into January.
“Employers may place their employees on annual leave and exchange this with the shutdown in December, if possible and feasible,” says Gerhard Papenfus, CEO of the National Employers Association of South Africa (NEASA), which represents more than 10 000 members.
Employers are within their rights to insist that you take leave during the lockdown, says Pieter Human, director of the labour advisory service Labourwise. “If an employee has leave available, this could be a struggling company’s first option: to use employees’ leave allocation until it is depleted.
Employers may consider other options to ease their cashflow during this time, including staggering wage payments, says Papenfus.
A relatively new option will be a temporary layoff, whereby you will still officially be in the employ of a company – but won’t receive a salary, says Human. You will be able to claim money from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), but it won’t come close to your full salary. “
Some points regards UIF and the proposed Temporary Employee Relief Scheme
According to sources government is in consultation to pay wages of employees working for struggling companies through the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme, which will avoid retrenchments.
DESPITE PROMISES, government did not as expected announce on Wednesday, more about how UIF will help employees who will be badly affected by the lockdown and the coronavirus crisis.
It is also important to note that the UIF does not have a sterling reputation for paying out money quickly and it is expected to be flooded with huge volumes of claims during this time.
Again, according to sources, the minister of labour, Thulas Nxesi has confirmed that companies may do payouts directly to staff, and then claim it back from the UIF.
We will keep you updated on developments in this regard.
SMALL BUSINESSES – PAYE RELIEF
President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced measures that should help ease the strained finances of smaller businesses.
This includes that tax-compliant businesses with a turnover of less than R50 million will be allowed to delay 20% of their pay-as-you-earn liabilities and a portion of their provisional corporate income tax payments –without penalties or interest over the next six months.
More than 75 000 small and medium-sized businesses are expected to benefit from these interventions.
The South African Revenue Service (Sars) will also pay out employment tax incentive reimbursements every month – instead of twice a year – “to get cash into the hands of compliant employers as soon as possible”, Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa has also weighed in advising that the temporary reduction of employer and employee contributions to the UIF and employer contributions to the Skills Development Fund are also being considered.
RETAIL AND LANDLORDS EXEMPT FROM COMPETITION ACT
The three-week lockdown will wreak havoc on shops’ cash flow, as only stores that sell food and basic goods will be allowed to remain open.
On Tuesday, the minister of trade and industry Ebrahim Patel said at a press briefing that many shops and other businesses in shopping malls have already seen a decline in their turnover. “They face significant fixed costs, including rents and costs specified in leases”.
IN RESPONSE, government has gazetted regulations that will enable tenants who are competitors to meet and to reach agreements with shopping mall owners and to address matters such as payment holidays or rental discounts and limitations on evictions.
Usually, malls and retailers are subject to strict competition law requirements, aimed at preventing any form of collusion.
The new regulations will also allow for the suspension of clauses in lease agreements that restrict some retail tenants from “undertaking reasonable measures” required to protect viability during the national disaster.
The regulations, for the initial period, will only cover restaurants, personal care service outlets, clothing, footwear and home-textile shops and their landlords, the shopping malls.
ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE AND THE DUTY TO REPORT
South Africa, has in place certain Regulations Relating to the Surveillance and the Control of Notifiable Medical Conditions, which were brought into effect many years ago, and which are found under the National Health Act.
These regulations list at least 2 dozen urgent notifiable medical conditions, such as anthrax or the plague, which list was last updated in 2017 to SARS-CoV-2, and / or any “respiratory disease caused by a novel respiratory pathogen”.
Such a disease requires all persons, including medical staff, customs control officials, private laboratories, medical aids or any member of the community, including community health workers, local leaders, traditional or religious leaders, to inform the department of health within 24 hours of becoming aware of a reportable and notifiable condition, once detected, including any suspicion thereof.
In summary, a person therefore has a legal duty to report “to the nearest health establishment” anyone they know of, “or reasonably suspects” to be a carrier of Covid-19 or who has been in contact with a carrier of Covod-19, who, in turn, will notify the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).
FAILURE TO COMPLY
Any person who fails to comply with the Rules relating to movement and home confinement prescriptions commits a criminal offence and, on conviction, will be sentenced to a fine or imprisonment not exceeding six months or to both such fine and imprisonment.
Any person who fails to honour a duty to notify a case of Covid-19 or a suspicion thereof commits a criminal offence and, on conviction, will be sentenced to a fine or imprisonment not exceeding 10 years in jail or to both such fine and imprisonment.