Lockdown - various levels of vagueness and confusion

Lockdown - various levels of vagueness and confusion

One of the recurring themes of our lives in lockdown is mass confusion around what we can and cannot do as citizens, says Wendy Knowler.

Quarantine area
Quarantine area/ iStock

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Government ministers say things in press conferences that either aren’t included in the regulations (roast chicken, anyone?) or, when asked for detail, say we’ll have to wait a few days for that detail.

On Saturday, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said we would be able to exercise from Friday, under strict conditions, and certainly no group exercise or flocking back to the gym, but we had to wait until Wednesday night to learn that we can only exercise within a 5km radius of ours homes, and only between 6 am and 9 am.

Since Saturday, the country’s smokers have been looking forward to buying cigarettes again from Friday, only to hear Min Dlamini-Zuma say last night that government has had a re-think about that and cigarette sales will remain illegal.

Can I move house now?

But by far the most asked question I’ve had so far this week is: “Can I move on Friday?”

Friday is the 1st of the month, traditional moving day, and, of course, it’s the day we move from level 5 lockdown to level 4.

So tenants want to know if they can move - many of them young people needing to vacate rented accommodation and move back home to save money, while landlords want new tenants - who have signed leases and paid deposits - to move in, and people who have bought houses - and are paying bonds on them - want to know if they can finally move in.

No, says attorney Marlon Shevelew, who specialises in rental property law - as things stand, on level, 4 people will not be permitted to move into or out of properties.

While relocation is not specifically addressed in the regulations promulgated in terms of the Disaster Management Act, he said, under the current level 5, "people are required to stay at home, other than essential travel for work and to purchase essential goods; and that, along with the ban on interprovincial travel, has prevented people from relocating,” he said.

“It is interesting to note that even at level 2 the corresponding provision is exactly the same - only at level 1 is there no restriction on personal movement. It seems, therefore, on a plain reading of the draft framework, that people will only be able to relocate once their respective district is at level 1. There’s widespread uncertainty about what the lockdown levels and draft framework mean for the real estate sector," Marlon says.

“In terms of the framework, the functions of estate agencies on commercial, and to a lesser extent residential, properties may soon restart. But it appears that the restrictions on personal movement remain very much stringent, and may well be a bar to relocations by tenants and/or landlords for the foreseeable future," he says.

No work, no payout?

Virgin Active, the country’s biggest fitness company by far, with more than 130 clubs, has chosen to automatically freeze memberships during the lockdown.

No debit orders were processed this month. And they won’t be next month either if gyms are forced to remain shut.

Planet Fitness, with 30 clubs countrywide, has done the same, as has Viva Gym, which has seven clubs, most in Gauteng.

“All memberships are currently frozen and you will not get charged any fee until we open again,” the company advises members on its website. But not all gym members are being “let off” payment during the lockdown.

Many gyms are processing debit orders as usual during the lockdown, saying instead that they will add lockdown months to the end of their contracts. Understandably, that's not going down very well.

READ: Pay now, enjoy later

Catch up on previous episodes here: 

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