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Govt to ease e-commerce restrictions under level four lockdown

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President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation to update citizens on government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo source: Twitter)
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation to update citizens on government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo source: Twitter)

President Cyril Ramaphosa told the nation last night that government will, in the coming days, announce certain changes to level four regulations to expand permitted business activities in the retail space and e-commerce.

Ramaphosa used his address to update citizens on government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting the state is mulling a move to level three of the lockdown at the end of May.

On e-commerce, the president’s sentiments echo those expressed by minister of trade, industry and competition Ebrahim Patel.

Last month, Patel said e-commerce activity would be “incrementally” expanded as government eases COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Throughout the nation-wide lockdown, there have been calls for government to allow unfettered e-commerce.

Patel has argued that allowing unlimited e-commerce operations will promote “unfair competition” on physical stores that are not operating and may result in the spreading of the coronavirus pandemic.

While level five lockdown regulations limited e-commerce merchants to selling only essential goods, under level four restrictions, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition has permitted the sale of winter clothing and bedding, a longer list of personal toiletries, hot foods for delivery, stationery and educational books, and computers and cellphones.

However, the local e-commerce sector is still unsatisfied with these measures, saying the decision to incrementally open e-commerce is “dissatisfactory and remains unintelligible”.

Takealot founder and CEO Kim Reid said the relaxed trading rules in the level four lockdown can still be translated as a ban on unfettered e-commerce, as a wider list of categories remains out of bounds.

Furthermore, ITWeb reported this week that non-profit organisation DearSA is threatening legal action if government does not lift the ban on unfettered e-commerce.

Applications uptick

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa also revealed that some three million South Africans had already applied for the R350 COVID-19 grant by close of business yesterday.

Government decided to set up the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress grant to provide financial support to unemployed South African citizens, permanent residents or refugees registered on the home affairs system.

Qualifying persons will receive R350 for six months from May to October.

This week saw the Department of Social Development and SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) open applications for the special grant.

Applicants have been asked to upload their applications via WhatsApp, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), e-mail and a special portal on the SASSA Web site.

The WhatsApp line can be accessed on 082 046 8553, the USSD line is available on *134*7737# and via e-mail to srd@sassa.gov.za.

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