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South Africa begins three-week lockdown over coronavirus

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South Africa today, Thursday March 26, begins a 21-day lock down to stop the ravaging Coronavirus which has, by Wednesday, reached 709 cases, constituting a third of all cases in Africa.

In a televised address to the nation on Monday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the 21-day lockdown will begin at midnight and  called on the country to “urgently and dramatically” escalate its response.

Under the lockdown, people will not be allowed to leave their homes except to buy food, medical supplies, collect social grants or seek medical attention.

“Immediate, swift and extraordinary action is required if we are to avoid human costs of this virus,”  Ramaphosa said, adding that if the nation failed to act swiftly, it could face “a human catastrophe of enormous proportions.”

Part of his Address to the nation reads:

“I am concerned that a rapid rise in infections will stretch our health services beyond what we can manage and many people will not be able to access the care they need.

“We must therefore do everything within our means to reduce the overall number of infections and to delay the spread of infection over a longer period – what is known as flattening the curve of infections.

“It is essential that every person in this country adheres strictly – and without exception – to the regulations that have already been put in place and to the measures that I am going to announce this evening.

“Our analysis of the progress of the epidemic informs us that we need to urgently and dramatically escalate our response.

“The next few days are crucial.

“Without decisive action, the number of people infected will rapidly increase from a few hundred to tens of thousands, and within a few weeks to hundreds of thousands.

“This is extremely dangerous for a population like ours, with a large number of people with suppressed immunity because of HIV and TB, and high levels of poverty and malnutrition.

“We have learnt a great deal from the experiences of other countries.

“Those countries that have acted swiftly and dramatically have been far more effective in controlling the spread of the disease.

“As a consequence, the National Coronavirus Command Council has decided to enforce a nation-wide lockdown for 21 days with effect from midnight on Thursday 26 March.

“This is a decisive measure to save millions of South Africans from infection and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

“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.

“The nation-wide lockdown will be enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act and will entail the following:

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

“It will also 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. A full list of essential personnel will be published.

  • 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.
  • Temporary shelters that meet the necessary hygiene standards will be identified for homeless people. Sites are also being identified for quarantine and self-isolation for people who cannot self-isolate at home.
  • All shops and businesses will be closed, except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services, including the JSE, supermarkets, petrol stations and health care providers.

“Companies that are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods and medical supplies will remain open.”

 

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