Lockdown Alert Level 3

  • South Africa is staying at Alert Level 3 – but four pretty high-impact rules are changing, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Monday night.
  • Beaches and booze have been unbanned, curfew hours reduced, and small church services are now allowed.
  • The changes came into effect on Monday night, following formal publication of updated regulations, so bars and liquor stores can open at 10:00 on Tuesday.
  • Hotspots are gone again.

* This article has been updated below.

A drop-off in new infections means restrictions on everyday South African live can be – gradually – reduced, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in an address to the nation on Monday night.

The changes came into force late Monday night, with the formal publication of updated regulations – meaning bottle stores could open their doors on Tuesday morning, 2 February.

Night clubs remain explicitly banned.

The national Alert Level will remain at three, despite the new rules resembling what had previously been envisaged as Level 2, Ramaphosa said.

“Let us remember that despite the clear progress we have made, the number of new cases is still high and there is an ever-present danger of a resurgence,” he said.

“It is therefore necessary to maintain the country on coronavirus Alert Level 3, indicating the continued high risk of transmission.”

In the last two weeks, South Africa’s active Covid-19 caseload has dipped by more than 40%, prompting health minister Zweli Mkhize to note that there were “promising signs” that the second wave was waning. A decline in cases coincides with the arrival of one million vaccine doses, which were welcomed by Ramaphosa.

Just five hours after observing the unloading of the first doses at OR Tambo International Airport, Ramaphosa addressed the public with a sense of reserved optimism.

“The first good news is the arrival today of the vaccines. The second is that we have recorded our lowest daily increase in infections since the beginning of December last year,” said Ramaphosa.

Though Ramaphosa did not mention it in his speech, the updated regulations do away entirely with special rules for hotspots.

Here are the rules due to change, effectively starting from Tuesday, 2 February.

Curfew has changed again

The national curfew will now start at 23:00 and end at 04:00. Restaurants and similar entertainment establishments must close at 22:00, so patrons get home in time.

Exemptions still apply – including travelling to or from an airport, as long as you can show a ticket or boarding pass.

The formal list of establishments that must close at 22:00 at the latest is:

  • cinemas
  • theatres
  • casinos
  • museums, galleries and archives
  • public swimming pools
  • beaches and public parks
  • game parks, botanical gardens, aquariums and zoos
  • gyms and fitness centres
  • restaurants
  • “establishments offering wine-tasting and other brew-tastings”
  • auction venues
  • venues hosting professional sport

Churches may reopen – with small services

Other gatherings remain banned, but faith-based groups are allowed again – up to a maximum of 100 people if outdoors, or limited to 50 people if indoors, and no more than 50% of venue capacity if the venue can not hold 50 people at an appropriate social distance.

Curfew applies to churches, but they are not listed among the places that must close an hour early.

Beaches and rivers will reopen

Beaches, dams, rivers,  and lakes, “inclusive of all recreational facilities at these places” are open again.

Following the same rules as for faith-based institutions, public swimming pools are limited to 100 people outdoors or 50 people at any indoor part, with a maximum of 50% occupancy if the building is too small to hold 50 people at a safe social distance.

Booze is back, to 22:00 all week at restaurants, and until 18:00 on Thursdays at bottle stores

There will again be a difference between when you can buy sit-down drinks, and when you are allowed to take your booze home.

Everyone with an on-site liquor licence will be allowed to sell from 10:00 to 18:00 Monday though Thursday, Ramaphosa said.

The likes of restaurant and taverns will be allowed to sell until 22:00, all week long.

Everyone else – “duty-free shops, registered wineries, wine farms, micro-breweries and micro-distilleries” – will be restricted only to their usual licensed hours.

It is illegal to consume liquor in any public place outside of licensed premises.

* This article was updated after publication to include detail from regulations. 

(Compiled by Luke Daniel and Phillip de Wet)

Re-adjusted Alert Level 3 rules and you

At Cape Town law firm SD Law, we are pleased for our clients in the hospitality and liquor industries, who have suffered economic hardship from the alcohol ban. We encourage everyone to continue to be responsible in consumption of alcohol and keep our hospitals clear of alcohol-related trauma incidents. Rules for evictions under re-adjusted Alert Level 3 remain unchanged. There is no impact on parenting or care and contact regulations, but we’re sure all parents will welcome the reopening of beaches and parks while it is still summer. Again, we ask everyone to be responsible in observing COVID-19 safety protocols. It’s up to all of us to ensure these rights are not withdrawn from us again.