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Virtual consultations on lockdown easing begin

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President Cyril Ramphosa.
President Cyril Ramphosa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will today chair a virtual meeting of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) that will deliberate on the prospect of moving most of the country to level three of the COVID-19 lockdown.

“The meeting of NEDLAC’s government, labour, community and business constituencies marks the start of widespread consultation, as promised by president Ramaphosa, between government and various sectors of society and the economy on the possible progression to level three,” says the Presidency ahead of the start of the meeting.

Yesterday, government lifted the ban on e-commerce, allowing the sale of all products except alcohol and tobacco products.

The Presidency says level three of the lockdown will entail a more extensive re-opening of the economy and the lifting of restrictions on movement.

“This meeting will also focus on mitigating the economic impact of the pandemic and the resultant lockdown on South Africa,” it notes.

President Ramaphosa has been in continuous consultation with various sectors of society on management of the national state of disaster since government first acted to limit the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Friday’s meeting follows the president’s announcement earlier this week that a proposal to move the country to level three of the national COVID-19 lockdown by the end of May is being considered.

The president made this announcement in an address to the nation on Wednesday night.

As government prepares for the further easing of the lockdown to level three, Cabinet ministers will undertake broad-ranging consultations with government, key sectors of the economy and civil society.

Having appreciated the progress made towards levelling the COVID-19 pandemic curve and capacitating the public health system to deal with an increase in infections, Cabinet approved the further easing of restrictions.

“This will ease pressure on the economy and facilitate greater movement of people while maintaining vigilance against the disease and enforcing health safety measures. The key imperative that drives Cabinet’s response to COVID-19 is to decrease infections and save lives,” said Cabinet in a statement on Thursday.

Cabinet’s statement follows a virtual special Cabinet meeting held on 12 and 13 May.

At the meeting, Cabinet was briefed through the NCCC on progress achieved and challenges experienced in the implementation of level four of the risk-adjusted approach towards reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“Cabinet welcomed the generally positive response from the public and business in adhering to the approved level four restrictions and guidelines. This level enabled an estimated 1.5 million South Africans to return to work and to much-needed economic activity,” says Cabinet.

The return to work was accompanied by requirements on employers to implement COVID-19-specific health protocols that are directed at protecting employees, customers and the broader community.

With citizens required to wear facemasks in public places, Cabinet commended the nation on its overwhelming adherence to the requirement.

During the meeting, Cabinet was updated on the substantial progress achieved by the Department of Health in working with provinces to ensure all parts of the country are able to intensify screening, testing, treatment and contact tracing as the pandemic develops.

Cabinet also welcomed progress reported on the rollout of the multifaceted economic and social support and relief programmes that have assisted enterprises and vulnerable citizens since the start of the national lockdown.

Noting the challenges and frustrations experienced by the public and businesses due to a lack of clarity in some of the level four regulations, Cabinet committed that regulations would be reviewed to provide the necessary clarity and enable improved compliance.

“Cabinet further noted variations in infection rates between different metropolitan and district municipalities. It is this differentiation that informed Cabinet to embark on a differentiated level approach as a response to COVID-19,” says Cabinet.

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