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It's a criminal offence to force non-essential employees to work during lockdown

So far, there are 1,326 confirmed cases of coronavirus and three deaths in the country.

FILE: Medical swabs to test for coronavirus. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi said the department had been receiving concerns about employers who were forcing employees to take annual leave or unpaid leave during the lockdown.

Ministers representing the COVID-19 national command council are updating the nation on the status of the lockdown in South Africa on Tuesday.

He said employers and employees could negotiate but this was a unique situation. He said the UIF had put in place measures to mitigate the layoff of employees during the lockdown.

Nxesi said it was a criminal offence for some employers to be forcing their non-essential services employees to work during this lockdown period: "This is an unfair labour practice."

SOUTH AFRICANS STRANDED ABROAD

International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor said 1,471 South Africans were stranded in different countries across the world and had indicated to the department that they would like to come home. However, she said the number might go up as more South Africa were expected to contact the department.

She said 723 of those were students while 320 of them were in those countries for reasons unknown.

Pandor said their mission was to render services while respecting lockdown regulations of various countries where South Africans were stranded.

HELP FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

Minister of Small Business Development Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said it would take seven working days to process an SMMEs’ application for funds for debt relief and if approved, it would take a further five working days to disburse funds to SMMEs for debt relief.

Ntshavheni said business owners could access application forms for debt relief online. She said they were also supporting spazas with business management.

She also urged spaza owners not to sleep inside their stores.

SOCIAL GRANTS

Minister Lindiwe Zulu said the a huge part of day one of paying social grants was successful.

Zulu sent her condolences to the families of two elderly people who died while collecting grants in Pimville and Cape Town, and that Assupol had offered help to bury the two.

She said the Post Office alone had issued grants amounting to R3.8 billion by 5 pm on Monday.

She did, however, acknowledge the challenges of long queues and overcrowding that were seen throughout the country.

"Late arrival of cash and money running out.. today the money was available for all grant types and that caused problems."

She said day two had seen lesser crowds and delivery of service had improved.

So far, there are 1,326 confirmed cases of coronavirus and three deaths in the country.

WATCH LIVE: Update on lockdown intervention measures on COVID-19

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