President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: SUPPLIED
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: SUPPLIED

SA will go into a 21-day national lockdown starting at midnight on Thursday to combat the spread of Covid-19, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced. 

The lockdown will continue until April 16 and South Africans will only be allowed to leave their homes under strict conditions, he said.

"This is a decisive measure to save millions of South Africans from infection and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people," Ramaphosa said. 

"While this measure will have a considerable impact on people’s livelihoods, on the life of our society and on our economy, the human cost of delaying this action would be far, far greater."

The national lockdown will be enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act.

This comes as SA's number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 surged to 402 on Monday, up by 128 the day before. 

On March 15, Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster and announced widespread measures to curb the virus such as closing schools early, travel bans from high-risk countries, the prohibition of gatherings more than 100 people and limiting the sale of alcohol. 

Ramaphosa said on Monday SA's number of confirmed cases had increased six fold in just eight days and the numbers would continue to rise. 

He said the government's analysis showed that there needed to be urgent and dramatic measures put in place to try to curb the spread of the virus. 

The nationwide lockdown is necessary to fundamentally disrupt the chain of transmission across society,” Ramaphosa said. 

South Africans would only be allowed to leave their homes under strictly controlled circumstances such as needing medical care, to buy food and medicine and other supplies, and to collect social grants. 

Ramaphosa said all shops and businesses would be closed, except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services, including the JSE, supermarkets, petrol stations and healthcare providers.

Companies that are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods and medical supplies will remain open.

There is a category of people who will be exempt from the lockdown. These include healthcare workers, emergency personnel, security services, those involved in the production and transportation  of food and basic goods, essential banking services and those who maintain power and water services. 

A full list will be published soon. 

Ramaphosa said he has directed the SA National Defence Force to deploy to support the police in ensuring that measures announced are implemented. 

This nationwide lockdown will be accompanied by a public health management programme, which will significantly increase screening, testing, contact tracing and medical management, he said. 

Community health teams will focus on expanding screening and testing where people live, focusing first on high density and high-risk areas.

Systems for centralised patient management would be put in place for severe cases so that the hospitals were not overwhelmed, and decentralised primary care for mild cases. 

Emergency water supplies — using water storage tanks, water tankers, boreholes and communal standpipes — were being provided to informal settlements and rural areas, the president said. 

Ramaphosa also announced further measures affecting travel. 

He said SA citizens and residents arriving from high-risk countries would automatically be placed under quarantine for 14 days, while non-South Africans arriving on flights will be turned back. 

International travellers who arrived in SA after March 9 from high-risk countries would be confined to their hotels until they had completed a 14-day period of quarantine.

International flights to Lanseria airport will be temporarily suspended.

Ramaphosa said the government would be spending money to save lives and to support the economy. He said the Rupert and Oppenheimer families were donating R1bn each to assist small businesses and employees affected by the pandemic.

“In the days, weeks and months ahead, our resolve, our resourcefulness and our unity as a nation will be tested as never before,” the president said. 

“I call on all of us, one and all, to play our part.”

quintalg@businesslive.co.za

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