1.5 million workers set to return to work

About 1.5 mil­lion more South Africans will from 1 May return to work as the gov­ern­ment begins to lift a frac­tion of COVID-19 lock­down reg­u­la­tions.

This comes as the gov­ern­ment grad­u­al­ly eas­es the econ­o­my back into activ­i­ty as announced this week by Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa.

The reg­u­la­tions were intro­duced last month as the gov­ern­ment sought to counter the spread in the coun­try.

About 3 400 South Africans have con­tract­ed the virus while about 70 have died.

Trade, Indus­try, and Com­mis­sion Min­is­ter Ebrahim Patel pre­sent­ed the details con­tained in the Risk-Adjust­ed Strat­e­gy, which is out for pub­lic com­ment and con­sul­ta­tion.

Dur­ing the brief­ing, the Min­is­ter detailed the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of indus­tries as part of the risk-adjust­ed strat­e­gy on re-open­ing the econ­o­my.

When the lock­down came into effect on 27 March, sev­er­al sec­tors and indus­tries were deemed essen­tial and con­tin­ued to func­tion.

These includ­ed all ener­gy, water and san­i­ta­tion, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion infra­struc­ture, health sec­tor, food pro­duc­tion, health­care, and hygiene prod­ucts.

All crit­i­cal pub­lic sec­tors were also clas­si­fied as such.

Most finan­cial sec­tors and min­ing, con­struc­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, media, call cen­tres, and parts of the pub­lic sec­tor have also been work­ing dur­ing the lock­down.

Lev­el 4 lock­down reg­u­la­tions

Lev­el 4 will see all agri­cul­ture, hunt­ing, forestry, fish­ing, and relat­ed ser­vices, includ­ing the export of agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts, per­mit­ted to oper­ate.

Auto­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing, includ­ing com­po­nents, will be scal­ing up in phas­es to 50% employ­ment.

Sta­tionery pro­duc­tion will be scal­ing up in phas­es to 50% employ­ment. Cement, oth­er con­struc­tion mate­r­i­al, and hard­ware will from next month also scale up in phas­es of up to 50% employ­ment.

All oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ing will scale up to 20% of employ­ment.

In con­struc­tion and relat­ed ser­vices, road and bridge projects, oth­er pub­lic works civ­il engi­neer­ing projects; and crit­i­cal main­te­nance and repairs will com­mence.

From next month, restau­rants will be able to sell hot cooked food for home deliv­ery. Sit down or pick-up is still not per­mit­ted.

While the ban on the sale of alco­hol will remain in lev­el 4, sta­tionery and edu­ca­tion­al books, as well as tobac­co prod­uct sales, will com­mence.

Per­son­al ICT equip­ment, includ­ing com­put­ers, mobile tele­phones, and oth­er home office equip­ment, will be per­mit­ted in the relaxed reg­u­la­tions.

The updat­ed reg­u­la­tions will also lift a ban on ICT ser­vices for all pri­vate and busi­ness cus­tomers.

Regard­ing trans­port, pub­lic rail, minibus taxi, and bus ser­vices will resume at lev­els and on terms as will be set out in direc­tions, based on the pro­gres­sive increase in com­muter num­bers dur­ing the var­i­ous phas­es.

The min­ing sec­tor will see open-cast min­ing scaled up to full employ­ment. All oth­er min­ing start­ing in batch­es will scale up towards 50% employ­ment.

Patel said recy­cling of glass, paper, and met­al, includ­ing by infor­mal recy­clers, will be per­mit­ted at 50% capac­i­ty.

Fit­ness enthu­si­asts will breathe a sigh of relief as they will from Fri­day be able to exer­cise under cer­tain restric­tions yet to be announced.

These include no train­ing in groups and a ban remain­ing on recre­ation­al facil­i­ties and gyms.

Patel reit­er­at­ed that all COVID-19 health and safe­ty pro­to­cols will still have to be fol­lowed at all times.

This, he said, includes the obser­vance of guide­lines for social dis­tanc­ing, san­i­ta­tion and hygiene, and the use of appro­pri­ate per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment, like cloth face masks, as deter­mined by the Nation­al Depart­ment of Health.

Dur­ing lev­el 4, peo­ple will be per­mit­ted to trav­el to per­form and acquire ser­vices only where such ser­vices can­not be pro­vid­ed from the safe­ty of one’s home.

New alert sys­tem

In deter­min­ing which sec­tors to open, Patel said the gov­ern­ment con­sid­ered a new alert sys­tem to mea­sure the degree of risk and an indus­tri­al clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem to indi­cate the eco­nom­ic activ­i­ties that will com­mence either com­plete­ly on in part.

Said Patel: “The pur­pose of the new approach is to cal­i­brate the lev­el of open­ness with the lev­el of risk. If we have high risk, there are few­er eco­nom­ic activ­i­ties and social move­ments.

If we have a low­er risk, the econ­o­my is able to expand and more move­ment becomes pos­si­ble. It allows us to restart or increase as many eco­nom­ic activ­i­ties as pos­si­ble giv­en the lev­el of risk.”

He said the state had con­sid­ered the expect­ed impact on the sec­tor for a con­tin­ued full-on lock­down, how it affects the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of the sec­tor and eco­nom­ic impact.

“The third fac­tor was the con­tri­bu­tion and eco­nom­ic link­age of every sec­tor on the econ­o­my. GDP, num­ber of jobs, the mul­ti­pli­er effect on the broad­er econ­o­my, export earn­ings, sup­ply chain link­ages, indus­tri­al pol­i­cy goals.

The pro­mo­tion of com­mu­ni­ty well­be­ing was the fourth fac­tor,” he said.

These fac­tors, he said, have been applied to each of the dif­fer­ent sec­tors.

“We took some num­bers, quan­ti­ta­tive mea­sures, and judge­men­tal calls, which are qual­i­ta­tive fac­tors in this assess­ment.

It’s been a dif­fi­cult and com­plex process and hard bal­anc­ing act,” said the Min­is­ter.

“Every indus­try, every work­place, every work­er, wants to return to work. We all want to get South Africa work­ing ful­ly.

But we need to strike a care­ful bal­ance between get­ting to work as rapid­ly as pos­si­ble and con­tain­ing the spread of the virus as sav­ing lives.”

He empha­sised the risk of spreads need­ed to be low­ered as this will see the lock­down fur­ther eased, allow­ing the econ­o­my to grad­u­al­ly return to full oper­a­tion.

The return to work of an increas­ing num­ber of sec­tors will bring greater lev­els of test­ing.

Larg­er com­pa­nies will be able to test work­ers, giv­ing gov­ern­ment com­pre­hen­sive indi­ca­tion of the state of the virus in the coun­try.

“In this par­tic­u­lar area, we are con­fi­dent that the risk lev­els are low and we can move that area to a low­er lev­el of risk and more activ­i­ty can open,” he said.

The Min­is­ter said the phased approach will also be used to pre­pare firms to have work­places ready for a peri­od of the virus.

Researchers have advised that the gov­ern­ment needs to pre­pare them­selves as the virus will be active over the next six months.

Focus on lev­el 4 is about start­ing the core sec­tors of the econ­o­my.

“We must move for­ward with a degree of cau­tion,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za

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