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Coronavirus: What our national lockdown looks like

These measures follow the declaration of a national state of disaster earlier this month.

FILE: President Cyril Ramaphosa gives a press conference at the Union Buildings on 21 July 2019 in Pretoria. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG – With more than 400 confirmed cases of the coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19) in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday evening announced that a national lockdown would be implemented for 21 days from midnight on Thursday in response to the growing threat of the disease.

Government’s plan follows on China’s experience in containing COVID-19. This follows the declaration of a national state of disaster by the president on 15 March, which included several regulations on public gatherings and the formation of the National Command Council to monitor the implementation of these measures to contain the coronavirus.

Ramaphosa is concerned that if these extraordinary measures are not put in place, we could face a human catastrophe, with the numbers of cases increasing to hundreds of thousands in weeks.

The president also said government has set up a solidarity fund to help those in need. The Rupert and Oppenheimer families have pledged R1 billion each.

Here’s a summary of government’s new steps to control the spread of COVID-19:

  • 21-DAY 'STAY-AT-HOME' WHOLE-COUNTRY LOCKDOWN

From midnight on Thursday 26 March until midnight on Thursday 16 April, all South Africans will have to stay at home.

This means only absolutely essential personnel (doctors, nurses, police, emergency personnel, military medical personnel, and soldiers) and those requiring medical care will be allowed to leave home for restricted periods. Individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances. The South African National Defence Force has been deployed to ensure the lockdown is effective.

Categories of people who will also be exempted from the lockdown include those involved in the production, distribution, and supply of food and basic goods, essential banking services, the maintenance of power, water and telecommunications services, laboratory services, and the provision of medical and hygiene products.

  • THE HOMELESS

Alternative temporary accommodation sites will be used for the 21-day “stay-at-home” period for the homeless. Temporary shelters that meet the necessary hygiene standards will also be identified for homeless people. Sites are also being identified for quarantine and self-isolation for people who cannot self-isolate at home.

  • PUBLIC FACILITIES

All shops and businesses will be closed, except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services, including the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, supermarkets, petrol stations, and health care providers.

  • TRAVEL

South African citizens and residents arriving from high-risk countries will automatically be placed under quarantine for 14 days.

Non-South Africans arriving on flights from high-risk countries prohibited a week ago will be turned back.

International flights to Lanseria Airport will be temporarily suspended.

International travellers who arrived in South Africa after 9 March 2020 from high-risk countries will be confined to their hotels until they have completed a 14-day period of quarantine.

  • SUPPLIES

Medical and other supplies will be secured and stored in bulk due to disruptions in supply and distribution of goods, including supplies such as personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

  • HEALTHCARE

Health care will be provided through triage to obtain “centralised treatment” for severe cases and “decentralised primary care” for mild cases. A key objective will be not to overwhelm hospitals with unnecessary care seekers.

To ensure that hospitals are not overwhelmed, a system will be put in place for ‘centralised patient management’ for severe cases and ‘decentralised primary care’ for mild cases.

To track the latest developments around the coronavirus both in South Africa and abroad, click on this live status report from Strategix.