South Africa’s cabinet said on Tuesday it was studying a high court judgment declaring some coronavirus restrictions unconstitutional though the lockdown remained in force for now.
South Africa introduced in March one of the world’s most restrictive coronavirus lockdowns – including a ban on alcohol and cigarette sales – but has been gradually easing restrictions and is currently on the third of five levels.
A group called the Liberty Fighters Network launched a case against the restrictions in May, arguing they were unlawful and violated South Africa’s Bill of Rights.
In a statement, the cabinet said the judge had found in the group’s favour and declared regulations governing lockdown levels 3 and 4 “unconstitutional” and “invalid”.
“The court suspended the declaration of invalidity for a period of 14 days. This means that the Alert Level 3 regulations remain in operation for now,” the statement continued, adding that the cabinet would make a further statement once it had fully studied the judgement.
President Cyril Ramaphosa and his government initially enjoyed broad support for what was perceived as quick and decisive action in the face of the pandemic. But after weeks of damage to an already shrinking economy, criticism has grown.
The country’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, also launched a court challenge against certain regulations. However those it was targeting, including a curfew and restrictions on exercise, were eased under level 3.
The cabinet statement said the court had also directed ministers to review, amend and republish the regulations giving “due consideration to the limitation each regulation has on the rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights”.
South Africa has so far reported 35,812 cases of coronavirus and 705 deaths.
There was no immediate word from the high court on the case.