The government has reneged on its undertaking to begin allowing the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products from May 1 when level four Covid-19 restrictions take effect.
The decision was announced by Co-operative Governance Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Wednesday night at a briefing on the revised regulations for level four, the move to which was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week.
Restaurants will, however, be allowed to open, provided that they only offer deliveries.
Dlamini-Zuma, speaking on behalf of the national command council, said that although the government had announced the plan to lift the tobacco ban last week, it had made it clear that the revised regulations were subject to consultation both within government and with the public.
She said that during the consultation, “quite a lot” of objections, from about 2 000 people, to the reopening of the trade in cigarettes and tobacco had been received.
“We took that into consideration and debated the matter and decided that we must continue as we are when it comes to cigarettes and tobacco products and we shouldn’t open up the sale. The reasons are health-related,” she said.
Dlamini-Zuma said that despite the effect of cigarettes themselves, the government believed that the sharing of tobacco undermined physical distancing and actually encouraged the spread of the virus.
The ban on alcohol remained in place, as did that on the operating of hair salons, bars, cinemas and other places of entertainment.
Limited exercise allowed
Dlamini-Zuma also announced a curfew between 8pm and 5am, but said that exercise in the form of running, walking or cycling will now be allowed from 6am to 9am daily. Group exercise is still not permitted and people exercising will have to do so within 5km of their homes.
“We still expect everyone to be at home. You may only leave home if you are going to work or to perform any function allowed under level four,” she said.
Children who are co-parented will now be allowed to move between the parents, while people who needed to move between provinces to return to work will be given a once-off opportunity to move from province to province.
Movement between provinces is still not allowed without a permit, with the restrictions on funerals and movement to attend them remaining in place. Night vigils are still banned, as were visits to the bereaved family home during the week before the funeral.
People who had moved from the major centres to their homes in the rural areas ahead of the first lockdown declaration and are now starting work will be given a once-off allowance to move from the province they were in to the one where they work. Those who had been stuck away from home when the lockdown was announced, will be allowed to travel home, she said.
“It is a once-off movement. Once you are in that province there is no commuting until the end of level four,” Dlamini-Zuma said.
She said the industries allowed open had to prepare properly and observe health protocols including physical distancing, and the wearing of personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves.
Workers returning to work had to be screened to ensure that the virus was not spread. Companies that ended up with new infections would be closed, she said.
Dlamini-Zuma said workers should return to their jobs in a phased manner and according to a plan that was known by both staff and management in every company that began operating again.
Borders, ports and airports will remain closed except for cargo. South Africans could be repatriated, but under very strict conditions, and would have to be quarantined when they arrived home.
Foreign nationals who want to be repatriated will have to follow a process co-ordinated by the department of international relations and co-operation, Dlamini-Zuma said.
Watch the national command council briefing again: