Update: On 28 May 2020, the South African government gave the green light to “non contact professional sport” when the country moves to level three. Cricket is among the sports considered “non-contact”, but rugby and soccer will have to wait a while longer.
At the time of writing, on Sunday 10 May 2020, South Africa’s lockdown alert level remained at Level 4.
On Saturday, the total number of cases in the country was sitting at 9420, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). The Western Cape has become the epicentre, with over 4800 confirmed cases and 95 deaths.
While there is no set timeframe for when the levels might change – or if different provinces might have to follow different levels – sports-loving South Africans all want to know: will sport return at lockdown Level 3?
The answer is a bit a complicated.
First, we need to consider what might prompt a downgrade to Level 3.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, during a media briefing a few weeks ago, revealed some of the factors considered by the government when setting the level. Here are some of the key points.
- Rate at which the proportion of the population tested is increasing (higher is better).
- Rate at which the proportion of positive tests is increasing (lower is better).
- Rate of increase in fixed and makeshift hospital beds in both public and private sectors per 1 000 population (higher is better).
- Rate at which the proportion of hospital beds being utilised for Covid-19 is increasing (lower is better).
In a Draft Framework, published late April, government proposed some rules and regulations which stipulates what can and can’t happen at the different lockdown levels.
These can still change, but in a general overview, it seems unlikely that rugby or the PSL can return during lockdown Level 3. Live sport in South Africa is unlikely to make a comeback at lockdown level 3.
What we can also say with reasonable certainty is that when sport does return, it’s likely to be without spectators for the foreseeable future. Insert joke about it not making much of a difference because of empty Super Rugby stadium here.
Live Super Rugby returning to New Zealand
New Zealand is expected to announce that it has moved to Alert Level 2 soon. The New Zealand Rugby Union has already put plans in motion for the return of Super Rugby – restructured in a more domestic format – but remained firm that there will be no crowds.
Lockdown level 3 in South Africa: Live sport unlikely
In South Africa, it seems highly unlikely that Level 3 will allow for the return of sport.
Hotels and B&Bs will not be allowed to operate and travel will be limited with no travel between provinces allowed. The 20:00 to 5:00 curfew will also remain in place.
Several high-profile sporting events from all around the world have already been cancelled or postponed.
It’s going to be a little while yet before live sport returns to South Africa, too.