President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a nationwide lockdown for 21 days from midnight on Thursday, 26 March. The lockdown will then end on 16 April.
In an address to the nation on Monday evening, the president said swift action was needed to prevent a catastrophe in the country – referring to the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
All South Africans must stay at home during the lockdown, he said.
Emergency services, security services, and other essentials services workers will be allowed to continue with their work, along with those involved in the production and supply of food and basic goods. This includes stores which sell food.
Companies in the energy provision, medical supply, laboratory, essential transport – including petrol stations – and essential financial services sectors will also continue to operate.
South Africans will only be allowed to leave their homes to buy food and medicine, to seek medical attention, and to collect a social grant.
Ramaphosa said businesses must also close during this time, except for the services listed above.
SA military forces will be deployed along with the SA Police to ensure the restrictions are adhered to.
Other measures announced were that international flights to Lanseria International Airport have been suspended, and tourists from high-risk countries who arrived in South Africa after 9 March 2020 will be confined to their hotel rooms for 14 days.
The president said everything must be done to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and citizens must stick to the restrictions put in place by the government.
The most effective way to prevent infections is through basic changes in hygiene and behaviour, said Ramaphosa.
“Staying at home is the preferred best defence against the virus,” he said.
A week ago, there were over 160,000 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide. There are now over 300,000 confirmed cases worldwide, added Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said the government will put measures in place to assist local businesses which will be negatively affected by the restrictions implemented during the lockdown.
Money will be spent to save lives and to help businesses survive, and Ramaphosa noted that the Rupert and Oppenheimer families have donated R1 billion each to the cause.
“We call on large business in particular to take care of their employees,” added Ramaphosa.
R200 million will also be made available to small and medium businesses in the tourism sector who have been hit hard by travel restrictions, said the president.
Ramaphosa said the supply and sale of food will continue as normal during the lockdown, and there is no need to stockpile goods.
This follows South Africans buying large amounts of food and toiletries over the past week in preparation for a potential lockdown.
Ramaphosa asked South Africans not to stockpile food or goods during the lockdown.
Increase in confirmed cases in South Africa
The lockdown follows Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announcing earlier on Monday that there were 402 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in South Africa.
This was the biggest daily increase of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country to date – up by 128 from 274 on Sunday.
Apart from the jump in the number of coronavirus cases, the Northern Cape also reported its first official infection.
To see age and location details of the confirmed cases in South Africa, read here.
To see how the number of cases in South Africa has increased in recent weeks, read here.