Brace yourselves, SA – we’re poised for lockdown level 2

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Brace yourselves, SA – we’re poised for lockdown level 2

Decision follows urging of directors-general, but hinges on a nod from virus command council and cabinet

Executive editor: opinions and analysis
President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to announce on Thursday that SA will move to lockdown level 2.
Level best President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to announce on Thursday that SA will move to lockdown level 2.
Image: Jerome Delay/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

President Cyril Ramaphosa was in consultation on Wednesday night before an expected announcement that SA would soon move to lockdown level 2 in a bid to save an economy battered by Covid-19.

It is understood that cabinet has been advised to open more sectors of the economy and lift the ban on alcohol and cigarette sales. 

A highly placed government source told Times Select he expected the president to address the nation on Thursday.

Ramaphosa was consulting with top ANC officials on Wednesday and was set to engage social partners on Thursday ahead of an announcement.

The latest development came after a recommendation from directors-general to open more sectors of the economy.

A forum made up of directors-general of national departments (Fosad) met on Sunday where it was resolved to recommend to the national coronavirus command council (NCCC) that almost all sectors of the economy be opened except crowded places, but under strict enforcement of social distancing, hand sanitisation and wearing of masks.

If their recommendation is accepted by the NCCC and endorsed by cabinet, Ramaphosa could address the nation before the end of the week to announce the move to level 2.

The conversation was that if we don’t open more sectors of the economy, there’s going to be more damage.

Times Select understands from two people who attended the meeting on Sunday that the dominant view among directors-general was that the economy had taken a battering and that more sectors should be opened to fire it up again.

“The conversation was that if we don’t open more sectors of the economy, there’s going to be more damage,” said a director-general who asked not to be named.

Another attendee said there were robust discussions about the lockdown and the safest ways to open more sectors. He said work streams of the directors-general forum had interacted with the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints), which coordinates all security and law enforcement operations in the country, to advise on how best the country could open up more given that infection rates were steadying and the virus was being contained. NatJoints includes the police, the army, intelligence services and the department of health.

The NCCC met on Tuesday to discuss recommendations from the directors-general and other structures on the way forward. Its decisions have to be endorsed by cabinet.

Contacted on Wednesday, cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams refused to comment, saying discussions in the NCCC and cabinet were highly confidential.

“If it’s not been cleared, I can’t talk about it,” she said.

Presidential spokesperson Tyrone Seale was unable to immediately indicate when Ramaphosa would address the country, saying he needed to gather more information before he could comment.

SA, which has recorded more than 566,000 infections and 10,000 deaths so far, has enforced one of the strictest lockdowns. This includes prohibiting the sale of alcohol and tobacco and enforcing a nighttime curfew.

The tobacco industry has gone to court to try to overturn the ban on sales, while the alcohol industry has implored the government to allow it to resume sales under certain conditions, including limited trading hours and rationing the amount of liquor people can buy.

Top players such as SA Breweries and Heineken announced that they were putting investments worth billions of rand on ice as a result of not being allowed to trade.

The hospitality industry is also pleading to be allowed to operate in full to save thousands of businesses and jobs.