On May 13, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the government’s intention to ease restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19. This announcement comes seven weeks after South Africa first announced a national state of disaster in accordance with the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002) (the “Act”). This decision to ease restrictions was informed by evidence presented by the National Command Council (“NCC”) which indicated that the early implementation of the nationwide lockdown had successfully limited the spread of COVID-19. The significant strain placed on the South African economy as a result of the nationwide lockdown necessitated a considered approach to systematically resuming commercial activity to uphold the health related gains.

The nationwide lockdown period is governed by a robust Risk Adjusted Strategy; a 5 level system of alerts aimed at defining permissible levels of general movement, travel and economic activity. In his national address on May 13, 2020, President Ramaphosa announced that government is contemplating further easing the lockdown regulations for certain provinces to move from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 by the end of May. We anticipate that over the next few days, government will issue further regulations and/or amendments to existing regulations, that will outline the guidelines and directives that govern the easing of trade and permitted commercial activities, while maintaining appropriate health and safety measures.

An example of a recently published regulation is Government Gazette No. 11113 issued on May 14, 2020 which provides directives and protocols which must be observed by retailers, couriers or delivery services and customers in relation to goods transacted through e-Commerce during Alert Level 4. Until May 14, 2020, all commercial activities have been limited to ‘essential services’ and ‘essential goods’ as defined by Government Gazette No 43258 (the “Regulations”) (e.g. supermarkets, medical facilities and pharmacies etc.). Under the newly published e-Commerce Regulations, all goods may be transacted through e-commerce platforms, except for goods prohibited for sale in terms of regulations 26 and 27 of the Regulations (such as liquor, tobacco, tobacco products, e-cigarettes and related products).

For further information, please reach out to Covington’s COVID-19 Task Force at COVID19@cov.com, Robert Kayihura at RKayihura@cov.com or Mosa Mkhize MMkhize@cov.com.