Vodacom says it will keep 139 of its stores around the country open during the lockdown period. 

The country is in a 21-day lockdown period in a bid to prevent the rapid spread of coronavirus infections. The telecommunications industry is one of the essential services permitted to continue operating by the government.  

Vodacom said operating times of its stores would be aligned to respective malls and their limited hours of trading.

“Vodacom will ensure that these stores maintain the highest hygiene standards with numerous preventative measures in place to ensure the health and safety of not only our customers, but our employees too.” 

These measures include hand sanitisers for customers and employees, installation of screen dividers to ensure physical distancing, doors remaining closed at all times and one customer per agent at any given time, the company said. 

In a statement, Jorge Mendes, chief officer of Vodacom’s consumer business unit, said “while we are all feeling anxious about the health and wellness of loved ones, family, colleagues and members of our community, we cannot ignore that the government has called upon us to act in support of ensuring our community remains connected during this time of lockdown.”

Mendes encourages customers to stay at home and rather make use of Vodacom's online platform and services.

“Customers should only leave their houses to go to our stores to perform critical services that cannot be performed online,” he said.

On the same day, Vodacom said it was working in partnership with the department of social development to operate a gender-based violence command centre that is run by qualified social workers, to provide support to victims of abuse and violence during this time.

Local gender experts and activists expect a steep rise in the number of gender-based violence cases during the 21-day national lockdown, the operator said.