South Africa's national response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its rules regarding lockdown restrictions have a 'phased approach' that aims to allow the country to slowly and safely emerge from lockdown while also helping the economy to continue to function. Key to the battle, of course, is the behaviour of the South African public. As has been stressed again and again, the fight against this pandemic comes down to how we all as individuals behave. Wear a mask, wash your hands regularly and avoid crowded places and gatherings.
On December 28, 2020 South Africa reverted back to a 'Level 3' lockdown (there are five Levels of lockdown, with Level 5 being the strictest). Key restrictions include a ban on alcohol, a 21:00–05:00 curfew and the closure of public beaches. On February 2, 2021, many of the restrictions announced in December were eased. The alcohol ban was been lifted, the curfew moved to 23:00 and public spaces such as parks, beaches, dams and swimming pools were again open to the public.
As of March 1, 2021 with new coronavirus infections now back at a very low number it was announced that South Africa would again go back to a Level 1 lockdown. Under the latest Level 1 restrictions, a shorter curfew remains in place (from midnight until 4am) and the restrictions on events and gatherings have been widened. Restrictions on the sale of alcohol have also been eased with alcohol allowed to be sold every day of the week.
During the Easter weekend 2021, alcohol sales from retail outlets is banned, although you may consume alcohol on licenced premises such as restaurants and bars. The allowances for attendances at gatherings have been extended to 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors.
TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS: Note that due to concerns over coronavirus variants many countries have placed restrictions on travellers coming from South Africa. The Skyscanner website has an incredibly detailed and constantly updated interactive worldwide guide detailing all restrictions applying between countries. Check it out here.
Are Joburg's parks open?
Yes, Joburg's parks nature reserves and botanical gardens are now all open to the public, as well as private parks and reserves. Visitors are asked to practice social distancing inside these places.
Are swimming pools open?
Yes, under the latest restrictions Joburg's public swimming pools are allowed to reopen. There is a strict limitation of 50 swimmers or less allowed in an indoor facility at a time and 100 persons or less at outdoor pools. Gyms are also open if you would like to go swimming, note that some may require you to book a time to visit in advance.
What is the curfew now?
Only essential workers or those undergoing a medical or security emergency may be outside their homes between the hours of 24:00 and 04:00. Note that if you are on the streets after curfew you are liable to be detained or fined if you cannot prove reasonable purpose. In order to abide by the curfew all non-essential venues (such as shops, restaurants, cinemas, gyms etc) are required to close by 23:00 in order to allow staff adequate time to return home.
Can I visit a restaurant?
Restaurants and cafes are open to the public, either for sit-in or takeaway meals and you may also enjoy alcoholic beverages with your meal. The number of guests allowed in a dining venue is now limited to 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors. These numbers are based on the venue being large enough to allow for at least 1.5 metres social distancing for each patron. Where the venue is smaller, the capacity should be less. If you are going out to eat we recommend avoiding closed and crowded spaces and find a place to sit outside.
Note that many restaurants have changed their operating hours in light of recent restrictions, so call ahead first to check they are open. All food and beverage establishments must close by 23:00 to allow all staff to be able to abide by the curfew.
There have been a lot of bans - is alcohol on sale?
Yes. You can now buy your wine online (or in a shop) and enjoy it straight away as the alcohol ban has been lifted and licenced shops are allowed to sell alcohol daily (except during the Easter weekend)! Investing in some wine, craft spirits or craft beer from a local producer is a good way to help support the craft drinks industry who have been hit particularly hard during this crisis. Here's a look at independent shops and craft producers where you can order booze online.
Are South Africans being vaccinated? What is the strategy?
Yes. The first South African, Zoliswa Gidi-Dyosi a nurse in Cape Town, was vaccinated on February 17, 2021 as part of Phase 1 of the vaccination roll out. South Africa is vaccinating the population in three phases, aiming to vaccinate 67% of the population by the end of 2021.
Phase 1 aims to vaccinate all South African health workers (around 1.2 million people, including those working in healthcare facilities such as cleaners etc). In Phase 2 essential workers (including teachers, transport drivers, police officers, retail workers), persons in congregate settings (such as prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters etc), persons over 60-years (an estimated 5 million people) and persons over 18-years with co-morbidities (an estimated 8 million people) will be vaccinated. Phase 3 of vaccinations targets the 22.5 million members of the population aged over 18.
South Africa has made deals directly with pharmaceutical companies and will also be receiving vaccines via the Covax scheme, including Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The first vaccines administered were from Johnson & Johnson and data from these first vaccinations will be shared as part of a trial to monitor its efficacy against new variants.
Find more about South Africa's vaccination strategy and how it will be rolled out on the official NICD website at nicd.ac.za/covid-19-vaccine-rollout-strategy-faq/.
You can also follow the progress of the vaccinations on Bloomberg's Covid Vaccine Tracker.
I am taking a flight – what's the situation with the airports?
In light of the dangers of Covid-19 the airport experience has changed considerably. Only those who are taking a flight are now allowed to enter the terminal. At the entrance you will be screened and asked to show proof of your flight. You are required to wear your mask at all times inside the airport and during the flight. Read more about what to expect at the airport here.
Five South African airports are now open for international flights: King Shaka airport in Durban, OR Tambo International and Lanseria airports in Joburg, Cape Town International Airport and Kruger Mpumalanga airport. Note that some countries currently have restrictions in place or travellers coming from South Africa. Make sure you check the travel requirements and restrictions before you travel
I need a Covid-19 test in advance of my travels – how do I do this?
You do not need a Covid test to leave South Africa (unless required by another country that you are travelling to), but you are required to show one when entering, so make sure you have factored this into your travel plans. Tests need to be taken within 72 hours and results must be negative. Tests must be a throat or nose (PCR) test taken at a legal and legitimate testing centre. Rapid antibody tests are not eligible. Your test results should ideally be original paper copies. If you have been given a coronavirus vaccine you still need to also show proof of a negative Covid-19 test to enter South Africa.
Private testing laboratories Pathcare, Ampath and Lancet all offer services for travellers and have numerous branches across Joburg. It is advisable to take your test within good time to ensure you have results before flying and to limit your activity and contact with others before travelling to minimise your exposure to the virus.
How can I find accurate information about Covid-19 and how South African health authorities are dealing with the Coronavirus?First stop is sacoronavirus.co.za which is the Covid-19 Coronavirus South African Resource Portal.
The exact number of cases globally is constantly being updated. Check this live updated global map by John Hopkins University to see the rate of new reported cases and check out the WHO's daily situation reports on Coronavirus here.
The South African health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize is providing regular updates on the situation and how South Africa is dealing with this. You can follow all these latest updates on his Twitter page here.
The Twitter account of the NICD (the National Institute for Communicable Diseases) is also an excellent source of up-to-date information on the Coronavirus and how it affects South Africa. Follow them on Twitter here and find their report updates on the latest cases and where they have been tracked from at their website here.
If you are worried that you have contracted the virus you can contact the dedicated 24-hour Coronavirus hotline on 0800 029 999. You can also join the government's free Whatsapp messaging service. The whatsapp channel provides useful advice about symptoms, travel restrictions, testing and treatment as well as the latest on current restrictions. Add the number 060 012 3456 on whatsapp and send a message saying 'hi' to be connected.
How to protect yourself and others from Coronavirus
Most people who become infected with Coronavirus experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others. In December 2020 a new more contagious variant of the virus was discovered in South Africa, making the need to take care even more urgent as the new variant has caused cases of the virus to increase dramatically.
You can take care of yourself and protect others by doing the following:
Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub and sanitisers kills viruses that may be on your hands. If washing with soap and water, wash vigorously for at least 20 seconds.
Maintain a two-metre distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Similarly practice good respiratory hygiene yourself by covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. Most stores, banks and other places where you will need to queue usually have spaces marked on the floor to show the distance required between you and the next person in the queue. Stick to these space markings, there is no need to overcrowd people in queues.
Follow the Three Cs. Avoid Closed spaces, Crowded spaces and Close contact with people from outside your household.
It is now mandatory that people wear cloth masks when in public to prevent themselves from possibly spreading the virus to others. It is noted that the wearing of cloth masks is a preventative measure rather than a protective one. Masks, whether colourful cloth masks or medical-grade N95 masks are widely available in all shops.
If you have fever, a cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. Stay home if you feel unwell and contact your travel or medical insurance about what steps you should take and where to go. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.
Testing Across Johannesburg there are now numerous drop-in and drive-through testing centres where you can pay to be tested if you think you are suffering symptoms or have been in contact with somebody who has the virus, including at most branches of Dischem pharmacies. State hospitals and medical clinics are also offering free testing for those who are showing symptoms of the virus. Private testing laboratories Pathcare, Ampath and Lancet all offer relatively quick testing.
Download the official COVID Alert South Africa
South Africa has its own official Covid-19 alert app. The app is free and works via bluetooth meaning it does not require any data or wifi to work. The app will alert you if you have been in contact with someone for a prolonged period of time by using this bluetooth technology. The app does not store or require any of your personal data and you will not be told who is the infected person you were in contact with. The app will simply alert you to the place and time when you may have been exposed to the coronavirus. Similarly, you can use the app to alert others that you have tested positive for the virus and it will send out an alert to any app users who were in the same place at the same time as you.
The COVID Alert South Africa app is available for free in the Play Store and iStore. Travellers to South Africa from overseas will be asked to download this app on arrival in the country.