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Lockdown lowdown: How to hack Advanced Level 3

Hello South Africa, and welcome to Advanced Level 3 – the latest stage of the country’s staggered reopening after hard lockdown. Many are celebrating the return of restaurants, cinemas, casinos and salons to sort out your lockdown hair “style”, the kinks in your back from all-those Netflix binges, and those poor, neglected nails. 

It almost feels like things are back to normal! But they’re not, are they? Not by a long shot. And that can get confusing when you’re deciding where to go and which spaces to avoid. To help you out, we’ve done some digging into the government’s rulebook (If you like, you can dive in too), and checked in with some experts about how South Africans can navigate AL3.

Check out our infographic on it here

The result? A handy “hack” list to help you come out tops — and, most importantly, healthy — from this latest level. Wear your mask 😷, pack your hand sanitiser and keep your (social) distance. Ready? Let’s go!

Restaurants

What the rules say: 

a) As a guest or customer, you will be asked to complete a screening questionnaire when you enter. You CAN be denied entry if you are suspected of having Covid-19 and if you are not wearing a mask. Also, make sure you keep your mask on, except when you’re eating and drinking. And keep your distance when queuing to pay or place an order. 

b) The restaurant should demarcate a distance in a line of at least 1.5 metres between people and between people and the counter. They should also remove any extra chairs, stools and tables; this expands the space and enforces distancing. All restaurants should have a 50% capacity, at most. 

Where possible, menus should be replaced with non-touch options; if not, they should be SANITISED after each guest use. The same goes for tables. But, where possible, the government recommends that tablecloths should be removed from tables. Only essential items such as salt and pepper should remain on tables. These should be sanitised after each guest use, too. 

Waiters must keep a distance when taking orders. And, to manage demand and capacity, restaurants should have a reservation system in place. 

What should I do in this space? 

  • First, ask yourself: “Do I really need to eat out or can I go collect my food or have it delivered?” 
  • If you do choose to eat out, stay vigilant: Is there hand sanitiser? Are customer and waiters’ temperatures being checked? Has the table been sanitised? Is the cutlery clean? You can insist (politely, please, we’re all stressed!) that your waiter cleans the surface in front of you and delivers new, clean cutlery. Same goes for old-fashioned menus; if there’s no digital or no-touch alternative, ask for the menu you’re about to grasp in your not-grubby paws to be disinfected.
  • Is there enough space between tables? 
  • Is the waiter standing at a distance and wearing their mask properly? 
  • When paying, has the card machine been sanitised? Have you sanitised your hands, card and wallet after using it? If you’re handling cash, remember to sanitise after as well.

Feel free to carry your own wipes and disinfectant to clean surfaces if that will give you extra comfort. If you feel the restaurant is not following the guidelines, err on the side of caution and find a good take-out spot instead. 

Personal care and grooming

What the rules say: 

a) Your local hairdresser, beauty salon and tattoo artist are free to open. But all of these services require contact — you can’t exactly have your hair cut from a distance. So in this instance, some stricter rules apply: 

As a customer or client, you will be expected to make a reservation at your salon, and you should expect a quick treatment that reduces interaction as much as possible. Go alone. You will be expected to sign a register so you can be traced if any Covid-19 infections are linked to the business you’ve just visited. 

Also, don’t complain if you don’t get that excellent head massage you’re used to before a haircut. Scalp, neck, shoulder and arm massages at the basin are not allowed. The basins must be washed out and sanitised after every client use.

You should be given a new towel with your treatment and your stylist or therapist should wear a new apron, new gloves and clean their face shields before every new client. Remember, you should keep your mask on, too. The space should be demarcated to ensure distancing; everything from shampoo bottles to clippers and hair brushes should be sanitised as often as possible. 

If you’re going for fresh ink (though an “I SURVIVED 2020” tattoo feels a bit premature, don’t you think?) all of the above rules apply. Tattoo artists must also keep tools and common surfaces sprayed down with disinfectant and covered in plastic. And here’s something new to worry about, apart from the pain of the needle: don’t let your artist spray disinfectant directly onto a tattoo. This causes liquid to become airborne, which makes it a Covid-carrying risk. Instead, they should squirt disinfectant onto paper towels before wiping your new ink clean.

What should I do in this space?

  • Start with a simple question: Can that haircut, nail appointment or facial wait? After all, everybody looks like something the 😾 dragged in right now…
  • If not, ask yourself how many people are in the space? 
  • Are the people treating you all wearing a face mask, gloves AND a shield? 
  • Are the people treating you sanitising their hands constantly? 
  • Is the card machine sanitised? 
  • Have you touched anything you shouldn’t have, like a magazine? Have you sanitised your own hands? 
  • Did you take a shower once you got home? 

Protecting yourself in a personal grooming space is complicated, but it is possible. You have to be aware of the things you are touching and how many people are in the same salon. And if the measures are not taken, don’t be afraid to speak up. Ultimately, you need to ask yourself if this visit can be postponed — whether you like it or not, it’s not essential, because the more you go out the greater the chance of your exposure to the virus. Think about it: Dye, or die? #SorryNotSorry 

Get-togethers

What the rules say 

a) The only gatherings you’re allowed to attend are funerals and places of worship, and this is limited to 50 people at a time, as it was during Level 4. But don’t invite yourself to just anyone’s funeral: only close relatives (spouse or partner, child, grandchild, sibling or grandparent) are allowed to attend. If the funeral is in another province, you will require a permit to attend.

b) If you’re going to a place of worship, expect to undergo screening upon entering, just to make sure you do not have any Covid-19-related symptoms. The religious leader is expected to have a plan in place to ensure distancing is maintained and no more than 50 people are within the place of worship. Services may not exceed two hours, and a place of worship must keep a register which must be retained for a period of not less than six months. The registry will include attendees’ details as well as those living in the same residence as the person attending the religious activity. 

Things like business meetings and conferences are allowed, too — but these are also subject to social distancing rules and should ideally be held online where possible.

What should I do in this space? 

  • The obvious one: Ask yourself if you really need to attend. When it comes to a religious service, must I be there in person or is the service being streamed online?
  • For funerals, check with the family whether the 50-people limit has already been reached (and if you have to ask, you possibly aren’t a close enough relative to attend!) 
  • If you do attend a funeral, how long should you stay to reduce your exposure to people in close proximity? (Our advice? Don’t hang around. Pay your respects and leave.) 
  • Are people maintaining a safe distance and are they wearing masks? 
  • If a friend is having a social gathering (illegal, by the way – Hugo, bel die polisie!), do you really have to go? 

What explain.co.za says:

The government has gazetted general rules that are designed to protect people from exposure to Covid-19. Now it’s largely up to us. As the number of cases rises (see here) and the projected peak looms, written rules can only go so far. Common sense, awareness and compassion are crucial.

Do you really need a haircut? Probably not. Do you have to sit down in a restaurant and eat? Why not just order a take-out and remember to tip the delivery person handsomely?

It’s tough to contemplate life without many of the services and spaces we take for granted, but Covid has no time for sentiment. Follow the rules and be as “paranoid” as you like.

Keep cleaning your groceries if that makes you feel better; wipe your phone and laptop down every day. Your good choices can help keep others safe — and that’s far more important than a fresh shave or a fabulous manicure.

With thanks to our experts, medical professional and activist Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl and another GP who asked not to be named.