On 11 January 2021, the amended Alert Level 3 Regulations were gazetted after President Ramaphosa's nationwide address.
Despite many anticipating a move to an adjusted Alert Level 4, the president announced that Cabinet had decided to maintain the country on adjusted Alert Level 3.
Consequently, most of the measures announced on 28 December 2020 remain in place, but with a few changes. Below are the key takeaways for employers.
Most indoor and outdoor gatherings remain prohibited. Where there are exceptions, such as in cases of restaurants, conferencing and dining facilities, no more than 50 people are permitted indoors and no more than 100 people outdoors, and this may not exceed more than 50% of a venue's capacity. An owner or operator of any indoor or outdoor facility where gatherings are held must display the certificate of occupancy which sets out the maximum number of persons the facility may hold.
Gatherings at a workplace for work purposes are allowed, subject to strict adherence to all health protocols and social distancing measures. However, every business premises is subject to a limitation of 50% of the floor space, which includes customers and employees, and subject to strict adherence to all health protocols and social distancing measures.
Curfew and closing times
The hours of curfew will now start at 21h00 and end earlier at 05h00, rather than at 06h00, as was the case previously. Individuals may be exempt from adhering to the curfew through directions or a permit (as envisaged by Form 7) to perform a permitted service or attend to a security or medical emergency. This permit must be signed and completed by the official's or employee's head of the institution and the official stamp of the institution must be on the permit.
The closing time for establishments such as cinemas, theatres, casinos, gyms and fitness centres, restaurants, museums, galleries, archives, venues hosting auctions and venues hosting sport remains at 20h00.
Everyone is still required to wear masks in public spaces. According to the Regulations, an employer may not allow any employee to perform any duties or enter the employment premises if the employee is not wearing a face mask while performing their duties. It is an offence not to wear a face mask and, on conviction, a person who fails to do so is liable to a fine and/or to imprisonment not exceeding six months.
Operation of economic sector
Businesses may operate, subject to relevant health protocols and social distancing measures, save for the exceptions set out in the Regulations, which include night clubs, bars, taverns, shebeens and similar establishments.
Industries, businesses and entities (both private and in the public sector) are still required designate a COVID-19 compliance officer and develop a workplace plan.
Alcohol sales from retail outlets and on-site consumption of alcohol remain prohibited.
The 20 land ports of entry currently open will be closed until 15 February 2021 for general entry and departure. The Regulations outline a number of exceptions to this rule, including, but not limited to, the transportation of fuel cargo and goods, persons with a work visa, for holders of a business visa, for the return of South African nationals, and the departure of foreign nationals.
Rail, ocean, air and road transport is permitted for the movement of cargo to and from other countries and within South Africa, subject to national legislation and directions.
International air travel is currently restricted to OR Tambo International Airport, King Shaka International Airport and Cape Town International Airport and is permitted subject to the traveller providing a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 test which was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel.
We anticipate, as per the Regulations, that directions will be issued in due course for the resumption of different modes of public transport to cater for the gradual return to work of people.
According to the Regulations, every business premises is required to do the following:
- determine their area of floor space in square metres;
- based on this, determine the number of customers and employees that may be inside the premises in order to comply with the limitation and subject to strict adherence to all health protocols and social distancing measures;
- take steps to ensure that persons queuing inside or outside the premises are able to maintain a distance of one and a half metres from each other;
- provide hand sanitisers for use by the public and employees at the entrance to the premises; and
- assign in writing an employee or any other suitable person as the compliance employee who must ensure compliance with the above measures and that all directions in respect of hygienic conditions and limitation of exposure to persons with COVID-19 are adhered to.
Any business whose premises exceeds the maximum number of customers and employees commits an offence and is on conviction liable to a fine and/or imprisonment for up to six months.
Employers are also required to adopt measures to promote physical distancing of employees, including:
- enabling employees to work from home or minimising the need for employees to be physically present at the workplace;
- the provision for adequate space;
- restrictions on face-to-face meetings;
- special measures for employees with known or disclosed health issues or comorbidities, or with any condition which may place such employees at a higher risk of complications or death if they are infected with COVID-19; and
- special measures for employees over 60 years old who are at a higher risk of complications or death if they are infected with COVID-19.
Employers are reminded that these obligations are in addition to their other health and safety obligations as set out in the Consolidated Health and Safety Direction of 1 October 2020.
Should you require business-specific advice or further clarity on what is legally required of you, please consult your ENSafrica legal practitioner of choice.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.