Level 1 may arrive next week. Here’s what will change and what won’t improve

Alert Level 1 may be coming soon, suggested President Cyril Ramaphosa Wednesday, asking editors to “look at this room next week.”

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize also indicated that the debate on shifting to less onerous constraints on people is continuing, as ongoing surveillance indicates no new increase in infections, and no cause for concern about the health system ‘s readiness to deal with Covid-19 cases.

There’s no official work on what level 1 would look like, with Ramaphosa saying the government is seeking input from different sections of society, including religious leaders who would like to see worship in groups of over 50 people.

But extensive and ongoing consultation and lobbying gave some clues about what could be on shop.

Under the original risk-adjusted strategy plan, going from Level 2 to Level 1 would have been important for the construction industry, which would have been able to restart all projects in a variety of ways, and for the customers. For the first time, it would have seen sit-down meals allowed at restaurants, and opened up accommodation for pure recreation. It was also due to allowing haircare and other personal services to function again, and opening up retail and e-commerce entirely.

However, not much remains to be unbanned, except roaming around at night for no good reason and nightclubs, due to the incremental easing of the restrictions during levels 2 and 3.

Both are thought to be under consideration, with the possibility that the national curfew will decrease from 22:00 to 04:00 – at least on weekdays – and that late-night entertainment will be allowed again, at least on weekdays.

There may be some discussion about keeping prohibitions on weekends, in line with the policy of restricting weekend alcohol sales, although it is not clear what would be the reason for such a stance.

There is also rumored talk about opening the borders of South Africa under Level 1, with reasons for doing so focusing on economic benefits, and reasons against including concern that new Sars-CoV-2 strains could reach the country along with tourists.

More subtle Level 1 improvements may include removing requirements for restaurants to maintain records of guests, which some industry players claim are logistically onerous, and allowing spectators to take part in sporting events, as long as they remain separate from each other.

Unlikely to alter are mask laws – or the State’s ability to govern by decree. The national disaster state, which provides the structure through which coronavirus regulations are made, is due to expire on September 15. To retain Warning Level 1, and the opportunity to switch back quickly to more strict regulations, which is likely to be extended for at least another month.

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