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Ramaphosa announces 21-day nationwide lockdown

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that a nation-wide 21-day lockdown would come into effect on midnight on 26 March until midnight on 16 April.

FILE: President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced stricter measures to deal with the spread of the coronavirus.

• LIVE BLOG: Ramaphosa updates nation on COVID-19 situation

Addressing the nation on Monday evening, the president said that the country would urgently and dramatically escalate its response to the spread of the virus.

He announced that a nation-wide 21-day lockdown would come into effect on midnight on 26 March until midnight on 16 April.

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

Individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances, such as to seek medical care, buy food, medicine and other supplies or collect a social grant.

The categories of people who will be exempted from this lockdown are the following: health workers in the public and private sectors, emergency personnel, those in security services such as the police, traffic officers, military medical personnel, soldiers – and other persons necessary for our response to the pandemic.

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

"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."

WATCH: President Ramaphosa: SA to go into 21-day lockdown

Last Sunday, Ramaphosa declared a state of national disaster, introducing several regulations to help curb the spread of COVID-19, including the closure of schools and travel bans on passengers from high-risk countries.

South Africa currently has 402 COVID-19 infections.

In his address, the president said that foreigners arriving on flights would be turned back, international flights would be suspended while high-risk passengers would be confined to their hotels.

He has also announced a solidarity fund to help those in need which included a "seed fund" along with R1 billion fund from the Oppenheimer and Rupert families.

Added to this, old age grants would still be available - some on 30 March and others on 31 March.

ATMs and pay points will remain open.

Companies in distress will receive help and if necessary, the UIF system will be called on to help, while banks were being called on to assist those who were struggling.

The president said that special units of the NPA would act against corruption.

He also said that provision had also been made for the homeless.

The president thanked South Africans for their combined efforts to stop the coronavirus.