This is not a drill — South Africa is soon going to be on lockdown for 21 days! This was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday evening (23 March). He said the national lockdown would take effect from midnight on Thursday (26 March) to 16 April. (Just for clarity — this means that on Thursday, 23:59am, the country will be a minute away from complete lockdown.)
This is a drastic new measure that will help curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in South Africa, a country who’s confirmed cases of the virus jumped from 61 cases (in week one) to 552 cases in just nine days.
“It’s clear from the development of the disease in other countries and from our own modelling that immediate, swift and extraordinary action is required if we are to prevent a human catastrophe of enormous proportions in our country,” the President said in his address.
Life on lockdown
So, what exactly does a lockdown entail and how will it affect you? Let’s look at some key points mentioned by the President:
- All South African citizens will have to stay at home.
- You will only be allowed to leave your home to visit the pharmacy, buy food, seek medical care, or to collect a social grant (it’s not yet clear how this will be regulated/monitored).
- Certain categories of people will be exempted from the lockdown; they include: healthcare workers, emergency personnel, people in security services, and other persons necessary for the response to the pandemic.
- Other categories of people exempt from the lockdown include: People involved in the production, distribution and supply of food and basic goods, essential banking services, the maintenance of power, water and telecommunication services, laboratory services, and the provision of medical and hygiene products. (The government is planning to release a full list of essential personnel.)
- All shops and businesses will be closed, except pharmacies, supermarkets, labs, banks and other essential financial and payment services.
- Firms that can continue their operations remotely are encouraged to do so.
- The South African National Defence Force will be deployed to support the South African Police Service.
- Temporary shelters will be identified for the homeless.
- Sites for people who cannot self-isolate or quarantine at home are also being identified.
The lockdown also came with further restrictions on travel. These include:
- South African citizens and residents arriving from high-risk countries will automatically be placed under quarantine for 14 days.
- Non-South Africans arriving on flights from high-risk countries that were initially prohibited will be turned back.
- International travellers who arrived in South Africa after 9 March from high-risk countries will be confined to their hotels until they have completed a 14-day period of quarantine.
“This nationwide lockdown will be accompanied by a public health management programme which will significantly increase screening, testing, contact tracing and medical management,” the President said.
“I call on all of us, one and all, to play our part. To be courageous, to be patient, and above all, to show compassion. Let us never despair.”
The President also mentioned that he is currently in consultation on a proposal for a special dispensation for companies that are in distress because of COVID-19.
“Through this proposal, employees will receive wage payment through the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme, which will enable companies to pay employees directly during this period and avoid retrenchment,” he said.
“In the event that it becomes necessary, we will utilise the reserves within the UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund) system to extend support to those workers in SMEs and other vulnerable firms who are faced with loss of income and whose companies are unable to provide support. Details of those will be made within the next few days.”
You can read the full speech for yourself here. Let’s stay home and stay safe!