COVID-19: What you may and may not do during South Africa’s 21-day lockdown

COVID-19: What you may and may not do during South Africa’s 21-day lockdownPHOTO: Joyrene Kramer/Spotlight
News & Features

Following the announcement by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa that the country will be entering a lockdown for 21 days (starting midnight on Thursday the 26th of March and ending on the 16th of April), several government clusters have announced what regulations will be implemented during this time. These regulations have been outlined in the Government Gazette.

However, the minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel cautioned on Wednesday during the last press briefing of the day, that regulations may change or be added as gaps are identified.

“We will learn from implementing (the regulations). We will amend the regulations as we go on. If there are gaps that we have discovered, we can bring out a new regulation,” Patel said.

Several questions have emerged from various sectors of society about the lockdown.

Where and when can I collect my SASSA grant?

According to the Minister for Social Development Lindiwe Zulu, in a press briefing given by the government’s social cluster on Tuesday, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) will be ready to pay out grants from the 30th of March and retailers and banks are working closely with SASSA so that payments can be accessed by everyone.

She further reminded South Africans that older people and persons with disabilities should be allowed to access their grants on the 30th and 31rst of March so that they can return home as quickly as possible.

“All other grants will be available from the 1st of April,” Zulu said.

She also added that correct hygiene protocols and social distancing are expected to be enforced by retailers, with assistance from SAPS and the defence force (SANDF) where needed.

SASSA’s offices will be closed and no new applications will be processed during the lockdown, according to Zulu. And any urgent applicants will be handled by their call centre.

Will my NSFAS allowance be affected by the lockdown?

No. According to the Minister for Higher Education, Science & Technology Minister Blade Nzimande, NSFAS allowances will still be paid to students.

“The payments are not being suspended just because universities have been suspended,” he said during the press briefing on Tuesday.

Will homeless shelters remain open?

Yes. According to Zulu, all shelters will remain open during the lockdown period, and food will be provided to these shelters.

Food will also be provided to old age homes, youth centres and rehabilitation centres during the lockdown.

Will my elderly relatives be able to stay in their old age home?

Yes, old age homes will remain open, according to Zulu. However, she stated that no visits will be allowed in the 21-day lockdown.

Which shops am I allowed to go to?

You are allowed to go to grocery stores that sell essential products such as food and non-alcoholic beverages, animal food, electricity, airtime, hygiene, personal and cleaning products as well as pharmacies for medication and fuel (such as gas and coal). These items are provided for in the Gazette, and the full list of items have been published in said Gazette.

The Gazette also stated that spaza shops that sell essential products will also remain open during this time, and thus far has not outlined any limitations for which spaza shops may remain operational.

Citizens are also allowed to collect social grants and seek emergency or chronic medical attention, according to the Gazette.

What do I need in order to identify myself as someone who performs an essential service?

According to the regulations published in the Gazette, any essential service worker will have to carry a permit signed by their employer that identifies them as essential personnel. The permit form can be found in the Gazette. The Gazette further stated that a form of identification must accompany the permit at all times. So, you will need to carry your ID with you as well.

How will I get to work (if I am an essential service worker) and if I am dependent on public transport?

According to the Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula and the regulations outlined in the Gazette, essential service workers will be able to make use of mini-bus taxis and buses to transport them to their workplace.

He added that metered taxis and e-hailing services such as Uber and Bolt will also be allowed to transport essential service workers and people allowed to make the “permitted movements” (that is going out for the reasons provided in the Gazette).

However, all these vehicles (taxi’s, buses, metered taxi’s and e-hailing services) will only be running between 5 am and 9 am and then again between 4pm and 8pm, according to the Minister. In addition to this the vehicles will carry a reduced number of passengers and must be sanitised after every trip.

He also said that all rail travel has been suspended until the end of the lockdown.

Will public transport still be available for people who aren’t essential workers at this time?

Yes. Mbalula stated that public transport will be available to the public to make permitted trips but will only be running during the set times in the mornings (5am-9am) and the afternoons (4pm-8pm).

However, he stated that priority will be given to essential service workers.

Can I still collect my chronic medication?

Yes, as medication falls under the essential products that you will be able to purchase during this time. If you are reliant on public transport however, then you will have to take into consideration the limited times at which public transport will be operating.

Can I take groceries or medication to my elderly or sick relatives?

According to the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, special provision has been made in the Gazette, which lists as an essential service the “care services and social relief of distress provided to older persons”.

The Gazette also extends these essential services as the care and social relief of distress provided to “mentally ill, persons with disabilities, the sick and children”.

According to the Dlamini-Zuma, this means that you will thus be able to provide elderly or sick relatives with groceries or medication. However, whether or not you would need a written form or other proof to show your intent to do so was not discussed at the press conference and may still be implemented.

Can I order takeout during the lockdown?

No. The Minister of Tourism Mamoloko Kubayi Ngubane issued a statement on Wednesday that stated “ALL restaurants, cafes, bars and coffee bars” will be closed during the lockdown. This extended to the suspensions of all food delivery services.

Can I buy liquor during the lockdown?

No, the sale of any alcohol is prohibited during lockdown, the Minister of Police Bheki Cele said during Wednesday evening’s press briefing.

But if you already have alcohol at your home, this won’t be a problem, unless you decided to consume it away from your home.

“If we find the liquor in your boot (during lockdown), that’s illegal,” Cele said.

Can I take my dog for a walk or go for a run?

After some confusion about whether or not this would be allowed during lockdown, Cele stated on Wednesday evening’s press briefing that this will in fact not be allowed.

Will we still be able to hold funerals during the lockdown?

Yes. The Department of Home Affairs will still be issuing death certificates in this time, and small funerals of no more than 50 people will be allowed, according to the Gazette.

Can I still drive my car during the lockdown?

Yes, and petrol stations will remain open. However, you will only able to travel to work if you are considered essential personnel or to any of the other locations provided for in the Gazette. This include shops for food and other essentials, the pharmacy, to seek medical care and to collect a grant.

What if my driver’s licence expires during lockdown?

If your driver’s licence expires during lockdown, you will only be required to renew it after the lockdown has been lifted, according to Mbalula.

Will home affairs be open during lockdown?

Home affairs will be operational during the lockdown, but only with skeleton staff, according to the Minster of Home Dr Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi. These staff members will only be permitted to distribute three different documents, according to Motsoaledi. These include the issuing of replacement ID’s and replacement birth certificates, as well as the issuing of death certificates. Any other applications  such as new IDs will resume after the lockdown has been lifted.

If I share joint custody of my child, will he/she be able to alternate between both parents especially between provinces?

During the press briefing on Wednesday evening, there were not any specific regulations in place to deal with this scenario, according to Zulu. (This may change).

Will there be load-shedding during the lockdown?

During lockdown, according to Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe, the mining industry will continue to operate, but at a reduced capacity. This includes mining operations to provide Eskom with coal and thus the power provider will remain operational during the lockdown.

According to Mantashe, it is unlikely that load-shedding will occur during this time as many businesses will be closed which will result in a reduced demand for electricity.