Leaked: the first draft of what life will be like after lockdown

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Leaked: the first draft of what life will be like after lockdown

Officials warn that the plans have since been altered, but one thing’s for sure, life will be very different

Journalist
A man relaxes in a quiet Johannesburg park during lockdown.
DOWN AND CHILLING A man relaxes in a quiet Johannesburg park during lockdown.
Image: Alon Skuy

A leaked government document which fleshes out a plan to implement various stages of lockdown has lent credence to the stark reality that, for most, crippling restrictions are going nowhere.  

Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said the document was outdated and had been “substantially changed” as the fight against the coronavirus progressed,  but sources told BusinessLIVE that it had been presented to cabinet on Monday.

“It was prepared as early input into the development of a risk-adjusted approach to resuming economic activity that the president [Cyril Ramaphosa] has consistently spoken of,” said Diko.

“It has since changed substantially and we would therefore caution against anyone relying on it for accurate information. The risk-adjusted approach is still being finalised and will be elaborated on by the president [on Thursday] evening.”

The 27-page PowerPoint presentation, circulated widely on social media on Wednesday, does offer some insight, though, into government’s initial thinking about a blueprint for the gradual unfurling of South African society.

This would be a phased approach, depending on how badly the virus ripped through communities, and could vary from province to province, depending on their “epidemiological trends”.

Moreover, the document revealed that an “alert system” was to be built, allowing for rapid easing and tightening of restrictions, a herald that a return to a normal life remains distant.

It is suggested the alerts be issued to South Africans via SMS.

Restrictions on economic activity need to be adapted to epidemiological trends and may need to be relaxed and tightened in different periods.

“Restrictions on economic activity need to be adapted to epidemiological trends and may need to be relaxed and tightened in different periods,” it reads.

“An alert system should be created with clearly defined levels of restriction that can be imposed by the National Command Council (NCC) as necessary.”

The plan comprises five levels of lockdown, ranging from severe to lax, but some restrictions would be non-negotiable.

Sit-in restaurants, hotels, bars, shebeens, convention centres, cinemas, theatres and stadiums would remain shut, a potential blow to a variety of events, including sport, for the rest of the year.

“No gatherings of more than 10 people outside of a workplace will be permitted. Passengers on all modes of transport 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 transport vehicles must be sanitised on a daily basis,” the presentation reads.

This proposal, if accepted, would see takeaway food outlets, clothing stores and government services, such as licensing and permitting, resume under alert level three (moderate virus spread and moderate health-system readiness), with limited domestic rail and air travel.

But the risk of transmission would have to drop further before domestic workers and cleaning services would be allowed back to work.

Liquor sales would be allowed within restricted hours during level three lockdown and lower.

Industries are to be encouraged to adopt a work-from-home strategy where possible; to allow workers aged 60 or older, who cannot work from home, to be on leave with full pay; and employers will have to screen staff daily for symptoms of Covid-19, including temperature checks.

With Ramaphosa expected to announce on Thursday how the lockdown will be eased, the presentation provides a modicum of hope that some sectors will soon be able to return to work.

Individual sectors have been scored based on the risk of transmission, the expected impact of continued lockdown and the value of the sector to the economy.

This return is carefully laid out and individual sectors have been scored based on the risk of transmission, the expected impact of continued lockdown and the value of the sector to the economy.

The industries that return to work first should be those with a low transmission risk, be of critical value to the economy and be under severe near-term economic stress, according to the proposal.

“In addition to generally applicable health and safety protocols, each sector must agree upon a Covid-19 prevention and mitigation plan with the minister of employment and labour, the minister of health and any other minister relevant to the sector.”  

“Individual businesses or workplaces must have Covid-19 risk assessments and plans in place,” the presentation reads.

On Monday, TimesLIVE reported that as many as 45,000 South Africans are expected to die from Covid-19 in the next two to three years.

Prof Shabir Madhi, of Wits University, who heads the public health subcommittee advising Ramaphosa and his cabinet, said a return to normal would be a pipe dream for this period of time.

The report also revealed that lockdowns, of whatever severity, could vary between provinces.

Lockdowns, of whatever severity, could vary between provinces.

“The highest burden of the disease is currently concentrated in Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape. The remaining provinces have a limited number of cases.

“Within the provinces the infection is concentrated largely in the metro areas. Given the disproportionate distribution of infections there is an opportunity to have a differentiated approach to the lockdown based on the geographic distribution.”

The initial plan, according to the report, would have the level of lockdowns informed by the number of cases in each province.

“Premiers may thereafter determine an alert level for specific districts, with the approval of the minister of health. Those districts with lower risk levels could in this way embark on increased levels of economic activity.”

A decision about when or if these restrictions would be eased rested with the NCC and was expected this week. — additional reporting by Tamar Kahn