COVID-19 and the National Lockdown Extensions – No further lockdown extension, but how free are we from 1 May 2020?
By: Alicia Mac Donald
Attorney and Notary, BCom LLB (University of South Africa)
28 April 2020
The President of the Republic of South Africa, on Thursday evening 23 April 2020, announced that as of 1 May 2020, the country will adopt a risk adjusted strategy to resume economic activity.
The strategy entails the gradual easing of the lockdown restrictions, over a period of time. In terms of this strategy, an “Alert System” which comprises 5-levels, with level 5 being the most stringent, will be implemented and will allow for the swift tightening or easing of restrictions, depending on the risks faced by the country at that given time. In the premise, different parts of the country could be placed on different levels of the alert system, simultaneously and, as much as the strategy aims to gradually ease the restrictions, the country could potentially move between the various levels, in certain instances.
As of 1 May 2020, the lockdown restrictions will be eased as we move from level 5 to level 4, in order to kickstart the economy. However, the easing of the restrictions is accompanied by strict health and safety measures and protocols that companies and businesses will be required to implement, within the workplace, to ensure compliance.
At this stage, it is unclear as to which sectors will be allowed to operate as well as the circumstances under which they may operate. Clarity should be provided with amended regulations in the days to come, but what the President was very clear about is that companies will be expected to adhere to detailed plans to ensure that the health and safety of its employees are preserved.
The President mentioned the following key points with regards to the health and safety protocols within the workplace:
- Workplace plans will be implemented to enable disease surveillance and prevent the spread of infection;
- All companies that are permitted to resume operations will be required to do so in a phased manner by first preparing the workplace for a return to operations, followed by the return of the workforce in batches of no more than one-third;
- Companies are encouraged to adopt a work-from-home strategy, where possible;
- Those who are elderly, and those with underlying conditions, must remain at home and take additional precautions to isolate themselves;
- All South Africans are to wear a face mask whenever they leave home.
As we await the amended regulations, it is imperative to note that employers are still obligated to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“the Act”) more specifically sections 8 and 9 of the Act. The Act places an obligation on an employer to, where reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a safe and healthy work environment that is without risk to employees. In addition, in terms of sections 13, 14 and 15 of the Act, employees are obligated to contribute and participate in ensuring that a healthy and safe workplace is maintained.
For now, it appears that the easement contains new restrictions and requirements, an indication that the freedom we used to know will, for the time being, remain a distant memory. We all have a role to play in rebuilding the economy and it is, therefore, our duty to ensure compliance with the new requirements, as we move towards the ultimate goal of complete freedom.
Contact our office should you require assistance with health and safety compliance within the workplace especially during COVID-19.
Sources referenced in this article:
1. Ramaphosa, MC. (2020, April 23). Nation Address on measures to curb Coronavirus COVID-19. SABC1, Auckland Park, Johannesburg: 20:30- 21:30.
2. Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993
This article is provided for information purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Tim du Toit & Co Inc does not accept responsibility for any loss or damages suffered due to reliance on the contents hereof.