When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an easing of lockdown restrictions on 30 September, he went against the advice of the scientists that are there to guide him on these matters.
A newly released memo from the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) shows that the scientists had recommended that Ramaphosa keep the curfew from 11pm to 4am. It also suggested that the limits on the number of people allowed to gather – which was 250 people indoors and 500 outdoors – be dropped.
It said venues should rather be allowed “to accommodate 50% of their maximum capacity, provided they are able to ensure compliance with the 1.5 metre physical-distancing rule”.
Ramaphosa instead made the following changes:
- Curfew was changed to between 12am to 4am;
- The number of people allowed to gather indoors increased from 250 to 750, while outdoor gatherings have been increased from 500 to 2000.
The MAC had cautioned against relaxing the restrictions excessively because it was concerned about the upcoming local government elections.
“With the municipal election set for 1 November 2021, care should be taken not to relax restrictions in ways which will further exacerbate the risks of transmission during poorly regulated mass gatherings, but accommodating the capacity of larger indoor and outdoor venues can be considered,” the memo said.
The president did, however, follow the MAC’s advice to drop restrictions on liquor sales.
Ramaphosa announced that the sale of booze for off-site and on-site consumption would be permitted throughout the week. However, liquor sales remain banned after 11pm.
The easing of alcohol sales restrictions came after the MAC had previously advised that off-site liquor trade should return to normal. A previous memo from the MAC showed that government had ignored this advice as well.