NEWS: The people of South Africa are now preparing for a three-week lockdown to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the news on Monday evening in a televised nation address.
Ramaphosa looked visibly tired on Monday evening as he addressed the nation following his meetings with the national command council. The president stated the 21-day lockdown will begin at midnight Thursday asking his the people of the to “urgently and dramatically” escalate their response.
“Immediate, swift and extraordinary action is required if we are to avoid human costs of this virus,” said Ramaphosa, adding that if the nation failed to act quickly, it could face “a human catastrophe of enormous proportions.” The dramatic measures are being implemented a week after the the president declared a state of national disaster.
Ramaphosa outlined the danger the country faces especially with a large immune-suppressed population of tuberculosis and HIV patients “Companies that are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods and medical supplies will remain open,” Ramaphosa said. People necessary for the response to the virus are also exempted from the lockdown, including health workers, emergency personnel and security services (police, traffic officers, military medical personnel and soldiers).
“It will also include those involved in the production, distribution and supply of food and basic goods, essential banking services, the maintenance of power, water and telecommunications services, laboratory services and the provision of medical and hygiene products.”
The action we are taking now will have lasting economic costs,” said Ramaphosa. “But we are sure that the cost of not acting now will be far greater.”
What does the South Africa lockdown mean for the ordinary citizen?
Thursday midnight the country officially enters lockdown as announced by the president. Ramaphosa has asked South Africans to act in the best interest of the nation and not out of self-interest.
People will not be allowed to leave their homes with exception to buy food, medical supplies, collect social grants or if the need to seek medical attention arises.
All shops and non-essential businesses will be closed except for dispensing pharmacies, supermarkets, petrol stations as well as laboratories, banks and other essential financial services.
Essential personnel including health care workers, emergency and security personnel necessary to the response will also be exempt.
The South African National Defense Force will be deployed to assist the South African Police Service, Ramaphosa said.
South Africa travel industry comes to a halt
Existing restrictions for travellers in and going out of the country,will be tightened to limit infection cases. South Africans arriving into the country will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine period. All international travellers arriving from high-risk countries will simply be turned back.
Travelers that landed after 9 March from high-risk countries will be confined to their current hotels for a 14-day quarantine period.
Protection for employees during coronavirus pandemic
A special dispensation policy for companies in distress due to the period of coronavirus pandemic has been put forward. This dispensation will include wage payments for employees via the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) to help companies pay employees during this period and avoid retrenchments. Employees who fall ill due to exposure in the workplace will be paid through the Compensation Fund.
The president also stated that the government will provide tax subsidies of up to R500 a month for the next four months to private sector employees earning less than R6 500. This would assist over four million employees, he said.
A press briefing by the government’s inter-ministerial committee is set for Tuesday afternoon. It is expected that ministers in Ramaphosa’s Cabinet will discuss the finer details of the lockdown. Stay tuned for more.