By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
Arts and Culture minister Nathi Mthethwa has confirmed that a number of key businesses will have to remain closed in South Africa until after a decision around South Africa’s adjusted level 4 lockdown is made this weekend.
In a government gazette published on Tuesday, Nathi Mthethwa said gyms, fitness centres, cinemas, and a number of other businesses will need to remain shut under the current lockdown restrictions – with no exceptions.
The gazette further states that any person attends a faith-based, religious, social, political or cultural gathering and who knows or ought reasonably to have known or suspected that it is prohibited, commits an offence and is liable to a fine and/or imprisonment not exceeding six months.
Mthethwa said that these restrictions remain in effect until Sunday (11 July), at which point they will be reviewed and a further update provided.
The basic education sector is also expected to get some clarity on the reopening of schools this weekend, with unions warning that schools are unlikely to be ready for the planned 19 July return date, given the high number of Covid-19 cases still seen in the country.
All schools were closed for contact learning at the end of June in line with the country’s adjusted level 4 lockdown, with a return date set for 19 July.
With this now 12 days away, teacher unions have warned that the schools are likely to miss this start date due to the high rate of infections.
South Africa moved to an adjusted level 4 lockdown at the end of June, with strict restrictions placed on gatherings, alcohol sales and a new evening curfew.
The Restaurant Association of South Africa (RASA) is backing a legal challenge against South Africa’s adjusted level 4 lockdown restrictions, which it says have hammered the industry.
The court challenge is being brought by South Africa Breweries (SAB), with the group challenging the country’s latest alcohol ban on administrative law grounds.
RASA said that it 'wholeheartedly' supports the court action and said it is seeking immediate relief on the liquor restrictions put onto the restaurant industry.
The government also introduced provincial travel restrictions on Gauteng which is the epicentre of the country’s third Covid-19 wave.
Besides the severe impact it is having on the health sector, this week’s Covid-19 statistics should influence whether the government decides on an extension of the two-week adjusted level 4 regulations, say economists at the Bureau for Economic Research (BER).
In a research note on Monday (5 July), the group pointed to the previous week of data which shows that South Africa saw record-high increases in daily new infections of above 24,000 on Friday and Saturday.
South Africa also frequents the global top-10 list of daily new cases per country, and with vaccination rates low, also registers high daily increases in Covid-related deaths.
"Unfortunately, given the progression of the third wave since the measures were announced, we think it is likely that most, if not all, of the current restrictions will be extended," the BER said. This will then start to have a more meaningful adverse impact on the Q3 2021 GDP performance."
On Tuesday (6 July) South Africa reported 15,501 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,090,909.