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South African govt to appeal court judgement declaring lockdown rules ‘invalid’

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Commuters queue at the Bree taxi rank in Johannesburg on June 1, 2020. – South Africa moved into level three of a five-tier lockdown on June 1, 2020, to continue efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Under level three, all but high-risk sectors of the economy will be allowed to reopen. (Photo by Emmanuel Croset / AFP)

South Africa’s government on Thursday said it would appeal a court ruling that struck down a raft of coronavirus lockdown regulations.

A provincial division of the High Court on Tuesday ruled in favour of a community group that filed a legal challenge against the government’s response to the pandemic last month.

Judges declared confinement measures imposed under levels three and four of a five-tier lockdown to be “unconstitutional and invalid”, after which the verdict was suspended for 14 days.
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“We are of the view that another court might come to a different conclusion on the matter,” the cabinet said in a statement released after a virtual meeting.

“Cabinet has therefore decided to appeal the North Gauteng High Court decision… on an urgent basis.”

Lockdown regulations are set to remain in force over the course of the appeal process.

The government also extended by another month a state of national disaster declared at the start of South Africa’s coronavirus outbreak in mid-March, and which is now expected to end on July 15.

Africa’s most industrialised economy rolled out one of the world’s strictest lockdowns on March 27, shuttering almost all businesses and banning non-essential outings.

Restrictions have been gradually eased since May 1, with more movement allowed and economic activity gradually resuming.

But the economic costs have been heavy, stoking frustrations about the government’s handling of the outbreak.

South Africa’s main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, also contested some lockdown rules in court last month, including a ban on e-commerce and a night curfew.

The country has Africa’s highest number of coronavirus cases, with 35,815 infections and at least 755 deaths recorded to date.

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