Co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI
Co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI

The national lockdown implemented to curb the spread of Covid-19 will be phased out instead of coming to an abrupt halt, co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Thursday.

“There are measures that will remain beyond the lockdown,” she said during a media briefing. “When we do stop the lockdown, we cannot do it abruptly — that today we are in complete lockdown and tomorrow we open completely. We have to phase-in so that there is an orderly move to normality.”

Dlamini-Zuma said some measures were put in place before the lockdown was announced, and some would remain in place beyond April 30, when it is scheduled to end.

The coronavirus has caused panic and fear across the globe and brought economies to a standstill. SA’s lockdown has compounded the country’s own economic problems, with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at risk of shutting down. 

SA’s plan of progressively introducing measures, culminating in the lockdown, was praised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday, whose regional head for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, echoed Dlamini-Zuma, saying lifting restrictions is not a matter of “all or none”. 

“It might be that when the observation is that in some localities the [measures] are starting to show an impact, some of them can be reduced while others are sustained to make sure you don’t have an upsurge of cases if we do it abruptly,” she said at a virtual conference hosted with the World Economic Forum on Thursday.

At first President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster, which required a number of regulations to be implemented. Last month he announced that SA would go into a 21-day national lockdown, from March 26 at midnight until April 16. Last week, Ramaphosa announced that the lockdown would be extended by two weeks, until the end of April.

The lockdown is intended to curb local transmission of the coronavirus, which has spread to all nine provinces. It imposes tight restrictions on the movement of people, who are expected to stay at home except for shopping for essentials, such as food and medicines, seeking healthcare or collecting social grants.

Dlamini-Zuma and other ministers briefed the media on minor changes being made to regulations announced when the lockdown was first implemented. She said the government is not introducing new regulations, but extending existing ones and announcing a few amendments.  

The minister said there is an orderly way of easing the lockdown and industries will be slowly brought back on stream. “For now, the lockdown will end on April 30 but even if it ends [then] ... you can’t just open the floodgates in one day, there has to be an orderly way. “Every week new things will be coming, new conditions, new areas will be coming on stream, but some will remain in place for a very long time.” 

Update: April 16 2020
This article has been updated with comment from the WHO.

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