Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: South African authorities to ease restrictive measures May 1. Increase in criminal activity and civil unrest reported in April.

This alert affects South Africa

This alert began 24 Apr 2020 13:55 GMT and is scheduled to expire 08 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Preventative restrictions
  • Affected Area(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Business and travel disruptions, entry restrictions; possible increased security, vandalism, and clashes

Authorities in South Africa will begin a phased lifting of restrictive measures, imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19, May 1. President Cyril Ramaphosa stated April 23 that the country would move to Level 4 of a new five-level risk scale, allowing limited economic activity to resume in certain sectors, under specific conditions and subject to stringent health and safety measures. Authorities will announce an increase or decrease of restrictions measures based on disease activity throughout the country. These levels will be applied at a national level, with separate levels for each province, district, and metro in the country.

Stages of the phasing of restrictive measures are as follows:

  • Level 5 - Drastic measures are required.
  • Level 4 - Some activity can be allowed, subject to extreme requirements.
  • Level 3 - The easing of some restrictions on work and social activities.
  • Level 2 - Further easing of restrictions, but the maintenance of social distancing.
  • Level 1 - Most normal activity can resume, with caution and health guidelines followed at all times.

Under nationwide Level 4 restrictions from May 1:

  • Borders will remain closed to international travel, except for the repatriation of South African nationals and foreign citizens.
  • Travel between provinces banned, except for the transportation of goods and exceptional circumstances.
  • Ongoing prohibition of public gatherings, including conference, convention centers, and cultural and social gatherings.
  • Business in unspecified sectors to resume operations under specific conditions. Officials will provide updates.
  • Limitations on non-essential travel.
  • Increase in public transportation services, with limitations on the number of passengers and stringent hygiene requirements.

Existing lockdown measures will remain in force until April 30:

  • All international borders closed, except for the transport of fuel and essential goods.
  • All residents to remain in their homes, unless obtaining or providing essential goods or services, or seeking medical help or emergency assistance.
  • All businesses or other legal entities to close, unless involved in manufacturing, supplying, or providing essential goods or services.
  • All retail businesses to close, unless involved in the sale of essential goods or services.
  • Public gatherings prohibited, with the exception of funerals.
  • Movement between provinces, cities, and districts within South Africa prohibited.
  • All commuter transport services (rail, bus, taxi, ride-hailing, maritime, and air) suspended, except as needed to provide essential services and goods.

Persons violating the lockdown regulation may be subject to fines and/or incarceration for up to six months.

South African authorities declared a national state of disaster March 15. Authorities introduced various measures, including the closure of the borders and schools, a ban on public gatherings, and the suspension of South African Airways (SA) flights.

South Africa is likely to experience continued civil unrest in the coming weeks. Areas that have been adversely impacted and are likely to continue to experience unrest include low-income areas near major cities and towns, particularly in the Western Cape and Gauteng provinces. Demonstrations are often marred by acts of vandalism, looting, transport disruptions, and clashes between agitators and security force personnel. Although these are typically confined to informal settlements and surrounding areas, protesters frequently blockade main thoroughfares in these areas with debris and burning tires.

Background and Analysis
South Africa's travel restrictions and preventive measures correspond with similar actions other governments are taking globally in response to the spread of COVID-19. The easing of the measures does not imply a reduction in the COVID-19 threat but rather that government preparations have advanced in recent weeks to allow some economic activity to resume. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an unprecedented R500 billion (USD 26 billion) social support plan, April 21, as well as the deployment of an additional 70,000 members of the South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF). These forces will likely be utilized to act as a force multiplier in support of police operations responding to insecurity and the enforcement movement restrictions.

COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. South Africa declared a National State of Disaster March 15 and implemented nationwide movement restrictions March 26.

Heed all official advisories and remain nonconfrontational if stopped by authorities. Reconfirm all travel arrangements if traveling to, from or via South Africa. Shipping disruptions may occur; consider delaying or rerouting shipments. Consider delaying travel if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19.

Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

Monitor local media closely for updates on possible protest locations. Liaise with trusted contacts regarding demonstration areas. Avoid all demonstrations as a precaution. Exercise caution if traveling along motorways near protest-affected low-income areas. If crowds form or violence occurs nearby, leave the area immediately. Verify road status before attempting travel to affected areas. Do not attempt to bypass any roadblocks, as protesters often attack motorists; instead, seek alternative routes to circumvent the protest sites.

South Africa Health Department:

COVID-19 Online Resource: