Michele du Plessis
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day lockdown on March 23rd, with effect from midnight on Thursday, March 26th until midnight on Thursday 16 April. All South Africans will have to stay at home. The nation-wide lockdown will be enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act.
Individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances, such as to seek medical care, buy food, medicine and other supplies or collect a social grant.
“Our analysis of the progress of the epidemic informs us that we need to urgently and dramatically escalate our response. The next few days are crucial. Without decisive action, the number of people infected will rapidly increase from a few hundred to tens of thousands, and within a few weeks to hundreds of thousands.”
The categories of people who will be exempted from this lockdown are health workers in the public and private sectors, emergency personnel, those in security services – such as the police, traffic officers, military medical personnel, soldiers – and other persons necessary for our response to the pandemic.
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. Essential products include toilet paper, cleaners, sanitizers and disinfectants, personal hygiene products, bedding and clothing, and essential supplies for those taking care of the sick and for people to remain healthy.
All shops and businesses will be closed, except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services, including the JSE, supermarkets, petrol stations and health care providers. Companies that are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods and medical supplies will remain open. Firms that can continue their operations remotely should do so.
Temporary shelters that meet the necessary hygiene standards will be identified for homeless people. Sites are also being identified for quarantine and self- isolation for people who cannot self-isolate at home. Emergency water supplies – using water storage tanks, water tankers, boreholes and communal standpipes – are being provided to informal settlements and rural areas.
This nationwide lockdown will be accompanied by a public health management programme which will significantly increase screening, testing, contact tracing and medical management. Community health teams will focus on expanding screening and testing where people live, focusing first on high density and high-risk areas. To ensure that hospitals are not overwhelmed, a system will be put in place for ‘centralised patient management’ for severe cases and ‘decentralised primary care’ for mild cases.
With regard to the prospects of a very deep economic recession, the President announced various measures to mitigate the economic impact “both of this disease and our economic response to it.”
The South African National Defence Force will be deployed to support the South African Police Service in ensuring that the measures we are announcing are implemented.