As SA moves to lockdown level 1 for the first time since the end of May 2021, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that government will now allow public gatherings of up to 2,000 people under the new adjusted regulations.
This comes as political parties are on the campaign trail, trying to woo voters ahead of the November 1 local government elections. The vote is expected to be hotly contested, with Ramaphosa’s ruling party, the ANC, under immense pressure to win back major metros, particularly in Gauteng.
SA has been under lockdown level 2 since September 13. The last time SA was under level 1 was between March and May this year.
Under the new regulations, outdoor gatherings can be attended by 2,000 people (up from 500 under level 2) and indoor gatherings by 750 people (up from 250).
Ramaphosa warned that campaign activities came with them a risk of spreading Covid-19, if non-pharmaceutical protocols were not strictly observed.
Both the ANC and the third biggest opposition party, the EFF, have been criticised by the official opposition party, the DA, for having contravened the lockdown regulations during the campaign period.
The criticism from the official opposition was the disregard of the earlier lockdown rules, which allowed only up to 500 people for gatherings.
This will also be the first time, since March last year when Ramaphosa announced the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, that public gatherings, public gatherings will be allowed to be bigger than 500. During this period there have not been any elections held in the country, apart from municipal by-elections.
“The hours of the curfew will change, from 12 midnight to 4 am. Non-essential establishments like restaurants, bars and fitness centres will need to close by 11pm to allow their employees and patrons to travel home before the start of the curfew.
“The maximum number of people permitted to gather indoors will increase from 250 to 750, and the maximum number of people permitted to gather outdoors will increase from 500 to 2,000.
“Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50 per cent of the capacity of the venue may be used. This includes religious services, political events and social gatherings, as well as restaurants, bars, taverns and similar places,” said Ramaphosa.
He said night vigils and after funeral activities would continue to be banned in the country – but the number of people allowed at funeral will be capped at 100, up from 50.
When it came to booze restrictions, the president said: “The sale of alcohol, for both off-site and on-site consumption, will be permitted, according to normal licence provisions. However, no alcohol may be sold after 11pm.”
Mask-wearing remained compulsory, and failure to do so was a criminal offense.
The new regulations kick in from Friday, October 1.