Ready for national lockdown

Empty grounds outside the College of Cape Town City Campus, where students usually take breaks or wait for classes, following the outbreak of Covid-19.

The country is on lockdown for the next 21 days, from midnight tonight, Thursday March 26, until Thursday April 16.

This was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa as he addressed the nation on Monday, March 23.

Just a week after declaring Covid-19 as the state of national disaster, Mr Ramaphosa announced additional measures to deal with the pandemic in the country. He said the while measures would 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 greater.

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 the response to the pandemic will not be restricted.

“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,” he said.

Mr Ramaphosa said he directed the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) be deployed to support the South African Police Service in ensuring that the measures are implemented.

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.

He said this nationwide lockdown will be accompanied by a public health management programme which will significantly increase screening, testing, contact tracing and medical management. Community health teams will focus on expanding screening and testing where people live, focusing first on high density and high-risk areas.

“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,” he said.

Mr Ramaphosa said the task at the moment is to contain the spread of the disease. He said he was 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.

To strengthen prevention measures. The following measures would be implemented with immediate effect. They include:

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 will be turned back.

International flights to Lanseria Airport will be temporarily suspended.

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

To assist the homeless, Mr Ramaphosa said 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.

He said the country found itself confronted not only by a virus that has infected more than a quarter of a million people across the globe, but also by the prospects of a very deep economic recession that will cause businesses to close and many people to lose their jobs. He said they are working together with business, to put in place measures to mitigate the economic impact both of this disease and of the economic response to it.

A Solidarity Fund has been set up for businesses, organisations and individuals, and members of the international community contribute to. The fund will focus efforts to combat the spread of the virus, help to track the spread, care for those who are ill and support those whose lives are disrupted. For more information on this, visit: www.solidarityfund.co.za.

The City’s mayor, Dan Plato, has welcomed the announcement of the lockdown. He said these were unprecedented times but the City of Cape Town is in full support of the 21-day lockdown announced by Mr Ramaphosa in order to curb the spread of the Covid-19.

“I want to call on our residents to please remain calm as the president has made it clear that food stores and medical services will remain open during the lockdown. There is much work to be done in the coming days but the agricultural and retail sectors have already assured the public that there is sufficient food supply. When going to buy food, please do not take the whole family with you, rather go as an individual for the family and take the necessary precautions as far as possible,” he said.