Thursday, 16 April 2020

Pretoria: If you are stuck at home with a burst pipe, you can now call your plumber to come fix it. This is just one of the changes made to regulations governing the extended COVID-19 lockdown.

The announcement was made by the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was addressing the country on Thursday.

“Today, we’re not coming with many new regulations. We’re extending the regulations that exist because the lockdown was extended,” she explained.

This comes after President Ramaphosa extended the 21-day lockdown until the end of April to contain the spread of the virus.

“When we do stop the lockdown, we can’t do it abruptly. We have to phase it in so that there’s an orderly move towards what would be normality,” said Dlamini-Zuma.

She, however, stressed that precautionary measures will remain beyond the lockdown to safeguard the health of the nation.

“It doesn’t mean that after the lockdown, everything will go back to normal.”

While some liquor associations have been calling for the President to lift the total ban on alcohol sales, Dlamini-Zuma said the only alcohol that’s permitted to be transported is the one that is used for commercial use, such as sanitisers, and health and related-issues.

“But the liquor that we drink is not allowed to be exported, in the same way that it’s not allowed to be sold,” she told the nation.

Government has now also given the country’s export terminals, which were shutdown, the green light to start exporting goods.

“Before that, we were saying that all goods that come from high-risk countries must be sanitised… We have now learnt that actually, if goods have been at sea for many days, the virus wouldn’t survive,” she said.

The relaxation at these terminals is a way of “decongesting” the ports, as the country prepares to ease the lockdown, said Dlamini-Zuma.

Social regulations: co-parenting, funerals

As far as co-parenting goes, the Minister said a parent would need to be in possession of either a court order or papers from a family advocate in order to be able to move a child or children from one parent’s house to another.

“If you don’t have these, you must at least have a birth certificate that shows the connection between you and the child/children you’re fetching or moving.”

In addition to that, plumbers and electricians are now considered essential service providers.

“If you have a burst pipe or something goes wrong with your electricity, you should be able to call a professional plumber or electrician to come to sort that out.”

While there have been a few amendments, the Cogta Minister told the nation that the funeral guidelines remain the same.

“You still need a death certificate or a copy, and you go to a magistrate’s court or a police station to get permission to travel to another province.”

For those who may not have sufficient time to obtain a death certificate, an affidavit is good enough for them to go bury their loved one.

However, she emphasised that the number of mourners at a funeral still remains at 50.

“That has not changed,” she stressed.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola raised concerns about funerals, which are becoming the epicentre of the spread of the virus.

“We want the nation to comply with the regulations that are put in place. People from all walks of life converge to a place. Even if the number is 50, it still does cause some difficulty for us.”

He called on communities to start a debate and engage on how this will be addressed going forward, and also to learn from other countries on how they conduct their funerals, to flatten the curve.

Mines to gradually resume operations

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said key among the sectors that will gradually return to operation is the mining sector.

“In the amendment we are identifying a risk particularly in deep mines. If they are left alone for a long time, the stability of the ground is tampered with, and secondly, gases accumulate or there will be prevalence of seismicity and rock falls.

“That’s why we are saying we must allow a situation of phasing in the recall of workers to work in those mines and deal with the ramping-up of productivity in those mines,” said Mantashe.

This Mantashe said, will minimise the risk of accidents and disasters in mines, as production will be incremental and is estimated to continue well into the month of May.

The Minister added that collieries that supply power utility Eskom, are operational.

“Mining operations, excluding collieries that supply Eskom, shall be conducted at a reduced capacity of 50% during the period of the lockdown, and thereafter at increasing capacity as determined by the Cabinet member responsible for mineral resources and energy. We must maintain a risk-based approach,” said Mantashe.

Adherence to strict conditions

The phased-in approach will take place under strict conditions.

These include screening and testing of returning miners. The industry is also expected to set up quarantine sites for miners and supply transport for returning miners.

On screening and testing, Mantashe said mines must integrate their system to the national system.

If COVID-19 cases are found, these must be reported to the Health Department and form part of the national tally.

In this regard, Mantashe said the industry has indicated its commitment to fight COVID-19.