Scientists didn’t sign off on shorter curfew, crowd counts, newly released memo shows

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  • The move to Alert Level 1 moved curfew back an hour, to midnight. But that’s not what scientists advised government to do.
  • The Ministerial Advisory Committee recommended keeping curfew at 23:00, a memo released on Wednesday shows.
  • The group also recommended dropping crowd counts, in favour of allowing any indoor or outdoor venue to be filled to 50% capacity.
  • That too was not heeded.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

On 30 September, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced South Africa’s move to Alert Level 1, dropping restrictions on alcohol sales, shortening curfew by one hour, and allowing for crowds of up to 2,000 people to gather outdoors.

Only one of those three changes were recommended by the scientific advisory group established to help guide policy around Covid-19, a memo released on Wednesday shows.

The week before Ramaphosa’s announcement, the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on Covid-19 had recommended that limits on booze sales be dropped – again. It had previously advised the same thing, to no avail.

See also | Scientists told govt to open bottle stores on Saturdays too, newly released memo shows

But the group recommended that the curfew should be retained at 23:00 to 04:00, with restaurants, bars, and other establishments made to close at 22:00. Instead, curfew was moved to start at midnight.

The MAC also recommended dropping the absolute count for gatherings, then set at 250 people indoors or 500 outdoors. Instead, it said, any venue should be allowed “to accommodate 50% of their maximum capacity, provided they are able to ensure compliance with the 1.5 metre physical distancing rule”.

Instead, Ramaphosa announced that the maximums would be retained, but increased to 750 people indoors, and 2,000 outdoors.

The MAC’s advisory was published on the government’s Covid-19 website on Wednesday, 6 October, but backdated there so that it appears to have been made public on 24 September, the day after it was delivered to the government and well before Ramaphosa’s address.

Various groups, mostly loudly those involved in selling alcohol, have demanded the timeous release of such scientific advisories. 

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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