President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday, March 23, 2020, disclosed that South Africa will impose a nationwide lockdown for 21 days starting from midnight on Thursday. This is an urgent measure the Southern African country is taking to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing the citizens of the country Ramaphosa revealed that “the number of confirmed cases has increased six-fold in just eight days from 61 cases to 402 cases.” He asserted that the number will continue to rise unless something drastic is done.“From midnight on Thursday 26 March until midnight on Thursday 16 April, all South Africans will have to stay at home,” Ramaphosa declared.
The President also stated that “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.” He further added that the lockdown is paramount due to the large population of people in the country with suppressed immunity due to HIV, Tuberculosis, malnutrition and high levels of poverty.
Subsequently, health workers, emergency personnel, traffic officers, and security services would be among those exempted from the lockdown so that they can aid in containing the spread. Similarly, all shops and businesses will be closed except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, supermarkets and petrol stations.
Ramaphosa revealed that soldiers will be deployed on the streets to support the police, while international travelers who arrived in the country after March 9 from “high-risk” nations will be confined to their hotels until they have completed a 14-day period of quarantine.
After declaring a national state of disaster over the coronavirus earlier this month, Ramaphosa disclosed the first phase of the government’s economic response which includes assisting businesses in distress by establishing a ‘National Disaster Benefit’ fund. A package of more than 3 billion rands ($170 million) will be given to industrial firms. The Temporary Employee Relief Scheme, Department of Tourism and Department of Small Business Development are also disbursing compensation packages respectively to qualified citizens.
In addition, other African countries are adopting the ‘Lockdown’ initiative to curb the spread of coronavirus. With 89 confirmed cases of the virus in Tunisia, President Kais Saied imposed a curfew and general lockdown on Friday last week. Saied, however, deployed soldiers on Monday, March 23, 2020, in a bid to coerce people to abide by the lockdown.
Several African nations such as Rwanda, Senegal, and Ivory Coast have also imposed lockdowns and curfews which restricts people’s movement and encourages self-isolation to curb further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.