Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: South Africa to further ease COVID-19 measures to Level 3 June 1. Separate restriction levels for districts and cities possible.

This alert affects South Africa

This alert began 29 May 2020 13:05 GMT and is scheduled to expire 30 Jun 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 have announced the easing of restrictions put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from June 1. The country will move from Level 4 to Level 3 of its five-level risk scale, allowing increased social and economic activities, and easing of domestic travel restrictions. The resumption of economic activities in additional sectors is subject to stringent health and safety measures.

Under nationwide Level 3 restrictions from June 1:

  • Borders will remain closed to international travel, except for the repatriation of South African nationals and foreign citizens.
  • Travel between provinces banned for recreation and leisure travel. Business travel may resume. Permits are required.
  • Domestic flights for business travel only. Permits are required.
  • Limitations on nonessential travel; authorities encourage workers to work from home.
  • Businesses in specified sectors to resume operations under specific conditions. Wholesale and retail trade will be fully opened. Further information is available on the official information portal.
  • Increase in public transportation services, with limitations on the number of passengers and stringent hygiene requirements.
  • Ongoing prohibition of public gatherings, including conference, convention centers, and cultural and social gatherings.
  • The nationwide 1900-0500 nightly curfew has been lifted.
  • Alcohol will be sold for home consumption only under strict conditions.

Authorities have also announced that the disease activity will determine the increase or decrease of separate restrictive measures for individual districts metros, and provinces, in the days and weeks ahead. The following areas have been deemed COVID-19 hotspots as of May 29:


  • Cape Town
  • Johannesburg
  • Tshwane
  • Buffalo City
  • Ekurhuleni
  • eThekwini
  • Nelson Mandela Bay


Western Cape

  • West Coast
  • Overberg
  • Cape Winelands

Eastern Cape

  • Chris Hani


  • iLembe

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.

Civil Unrest

South Africa is likely to experience continued civil unrest in the coming weeks due to economic uncertainty amid loss of livelihood. 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.


South Africa may see an increase in levels of petty and violent criminal activity during Level 3 restrictions due to relaxed movement restrictions. On May 22, South African Police Minister Bheki Cele stated that reported criminal cases increased for several categories after the country moved from Level 5 to Level 4 May 1, including instances of petty and violent crime and incidents linked to organized crime. Cele attributed the increase to the relaxation of lockdown restrictions since May 1, which saw the increased movement of people and traffic.

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.

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.

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.

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