David Makhura. Picture: SOWETAN
David Makhura. Picture: SOWETAN

The lockdown in Gauteng will be strengthened with roadblocks on major roads to prevent the movement of people to other provinces.

This comes after the huge movement of people out of Gauteng ahead of the lockdown, despite government appeals for people to stay where they were to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to other provinces and rural areas.

Gauteng police commissioner Lt Gen Elias Mawela announced at a media briefing on Sunday that roadblocks would be operated with the SA National Defence Force 24/7 at 11 major national and provincial roads leading from Gauteng to other provinces. There would be “soft blocks” at 32 secondary provincial and municipal roads to prevent the movement of vehicles.

The briefing, led by Gauteng premier David Makhura, gave an update of action the provincial government is taking to contain the spread of the virus.

Mawela said that by midafternoon on Sunday 148 people in Gauteng were behind bars and 25 others had been warned on offences ranging from holding gatherings of more than 50 people, wandering in the streets and liquor dealing. Taxi operators operating outside stipulated hours and carrying more than the number of passengers allowed were among those arrested.

The commissioner said that there would be “zero tolerance” towards those disregarding the regulations.

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus nationally has continued to rise. The Western Cape reported 310 cases on Sunday versus 271 on Saturday. Gauteng has the highest number of confirmed cases at 533 by Saturday.

Provincial health MEC Bandile Masuku said 15 patients were admitted to hospital with mild symptoms. Of the five originally in ICU only one was left and was improving. Six health-care workers tested positive and were in isolation, he said.

Social grants

Of the 1,700 known contacts of confirmed cases, 1,400 (82%) had been traced. Masuku said testing sites were being rolled out throughout the provinces.

If enforcing social distancing at supermarkets was a big challenge in the first three days of the national lockdown, payment of social grants to millions of beneficiaries poses another risk over the next few days.

About 18-million social grants are paid to more than 11-million beneficiaries monthly for old age, disability or child dependents.

As social distancing at collection points is particularly important for the elderly who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus, social development minister Lindiwe Zulu has scheduled payments so that the elderly (3.8-million people) and disabled (1-million) receive their grants on Monday and Tuesday and the rest on Wednesday.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula announced on Sunday that the lockdown rules on public transport would be relaxed from Monday to Friday to accommodate social grant beneficiaries.

The hours during which buses and taxis will be allowed to operate have been extended from 5am to 8pm, though social distancing on these modes of transport will still have to be complied with.

Grant recipients will have to carry their IDs and SA Social Security Agency cards when travelling on public transport.

Regarding measures being taken by the provincial government to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, Gauteng acting social development MEC Panyaza Lesufi warned that payment of social grants — a national competence — was a “major risk” that had to be managed.

Makhura said congestion at supermarkets in SA’s economic heartland of Gauteng had been the most difficult thing to regulate so far in the lockdown. Provincial MECs had all been involved in visiting shopping malls and supermarkets to have social-distancing measures instituted.

The rush to buy food was partly related to it being month’s end, Makhura said.

The premier acknowledged the difficulties of implementing social distancing in highly dense informal settlements such as Alexandra, where there was not much compliance with the lockdown regulations at the weekend, but said that it was everyone’s interests.  

ensorl@businesslive.co.za