Last night, after postponing multiple times, President Cyril Ramaphosa publicly addressed an anxious nation to highlight the way forward. Following in the footsteps of other affected countries, the president announced a nationwide lockdown for 21-days with effect from midnight on Thursday 26 March 2020.
The president says that "We have learnt that those countries who acted swiftly and dramatically were successful."
This drastic measure but necessary measure to help curb the rapid spread of this deadly virus.
See the latest Covid-19 statistics here - https://www.skillsportal.co.za/content/updated-2303-sas-covid-19-cases-increase-402
The president went on to say 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”
During this time, all South Africans will be required to stay at home, except in an emergency or when otherwise necessary. These circumstances include the seeking of medical care, buying food, medicine and other supplies such as the collection of social grants.
The president also touched on a matter that has been affecting not only health care workers, but those vulnerable to the virus as well – the stockpiling and reselling of goods such as surgical masks at heightened prices.
“We are concerned that there are a number of businesses that are selling certain goods at excessively high prices. This cannot be allowed.”
In terms of repercussions, the president says that crucial steps are being taken to prohibit unjustified price hikes, to ensure shops maintain adequate stocks of goods and to prevent people from ‘panic buying’.
To ease concerns of an imminent shortage of supplies, Mr Ramaphosa discouraged stockpiling, adding that discussions with manufacturers and distributors of necessities have taken place to ensure a continuous supply of the necessary products.
In terms of public services, the following workers are exempt from the lockdown -
- Health workers in the public and private sectors
- Those needed to respond to COVID-19. This includes emergency personnel, police officers, traffic officers, military medical personnel, and soldiers.
- 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.
Here are some of the key takeaways from last night’s national address.
- Temporary shelters that meet the necessary hygiene standards will be identified for homeless people.
- Provision will be made for essential transport services to continue, including transport for essential staff and for patients who need to be managed elsewhere.
- Emergency water supplies – using water storage tanks, water tankers, boreholes and communal standpipes – are being provided to informal settlements and rural areas.
- In terms of travel - South African citizens and residents arriving from high-risk countries will automatically be placed under quarantine for 14 days. However, Non-South Africans arriving on flights from prohibited countries will be denied entry.
- All channels for financial access will remain open, including ATMs, retail point of sale devices, Post Offices and cash pay points.
- A safety net is being developed to support persons in the informal sector, where most businesses will suffer as a result of this shutdown. More details will be announced as soon as we have completed the work of assistance measures that will be put in place.
- Any employee who falls ill through exposure at their workplace will be paid through the Compensation Fund.
- Using the tax system, we will provide a tax subsidy of up to R500 per month for the next four months. This applies to private-sector employees earning below R6,500 under the Employment Tax Incentive. This will help over 4 million workers.
- The Department of Small Business Development has made over R500 million available immediately to assist small and medium enterprises that are in distress through a simplified application process.
Enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act, the lockdown will end on Thursday 16 April 2020.