President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a three-week total shutdown, beginning midnight on Thursday, to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The president detailed a lengthy plan to “save the lives of South Africans” from the spread of the deadly virus, with government projections suggesting the number of positive cases will go into the tens of thousands in just a few weeks if left unchecked.
Ramaphosa was addressing the nation on Monday night.
The president said all South Africans will have to stay at home from Thursday midnight, apart from emergency services, health workers, traffic officers, security services, banking services, soldiers, laboratory services, and businesses involved in supplying and producing food and basic services, like food and medication.
The government will be deploying the army to ensure the enforcement government’s new plan, as enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act.
A full list of essential services and places to remain open will be made public soon, Ramaphosa said. “Individuals are not allowed to leave their homes except to buy food or seek medical care or get their social grant,” Ramaphosa said.
He said temporary shelters are being identified to house homeless people, people in need of quarantine and those who are unable to self-isolate in their own homes.
Ramaphosa noted the severe pinch business, especially smaller enterprises, would feel because of these regulations, but said a solidarity fund was set up, which invited members of the public to put money into to assist vulnerable people.
If it comes to it, the government will use funds in the unemployment compensation fund to assist smaller businesses.
The government has invested capital of R150 million into the fund, and has already received R1 billion each in donations from the Rupert and Oppenheimer families.
Banks and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange will continue to be operational. Ramaphosa called on all employers to encourage their employees to work at home. He said all major banks will put measures in place to mitigate any problems.
He said there will be assistance to the tourism sector, which is suffering due to a recently-introduced travel ban.
The president called for calm from the public, and said there was no need for panic buying since all essential and basic services will be operational.
“We can ensure a continuous supply of goods, so there is no need to stockpile.”
The government will rollout a supply of water to rural and poorly-resourced areas, Ramaphosa said.
The president, meanwhile, said South Africans returning from high-risk areas will be quarantined for 14 days. Non-South Africans from high-risk areas will be turned away.
Those who arrived from high-risk countries after 9 March will be confined to their hotel for 14 days in quarantine.
Ramaphosa condemned businesses which have marked up the prices of essential goods.
He added that people must not act in their own “selfish interests”.
“We will therefore act very strongly against any attempts at corruption and profiteering from this crisis,” saying that special units of the NPA have been instructed to act immediately against offenders.
Ramaphosa reiterated the need for good hygiene practices.
“We will prioritise the lives and livelihoods of our people above all else, and will use all of the measures that are within or power to protect them from the economic consequences of this pandemic.”
*Anyone who wants to contribute to the solidarity fund can visit www.solidarityfund.co.za
In his address, Ramaphosa said that businesses that may continue operation will include:
- essential finance systems, such as the JSE
- petrol stations
- healthcare providers
- companies involved in making or distributing food, basic goods, and medical supplies.
Companies with continuous operations, such as furnaces and underground mines, will be expected to put their operations on care and maintenance, Ramaphosa said.
A similar list of people will be exempted from travel restrictions that will also be in place. People who will be allowed to travel, Ramaphosa said, include:
- health workers, in both the public and private sectors
- emergency workers
- security services, including police, soldiers, traffic officers
- those in the production, supply and distribution of food and other basic goods
- those in essential banking systems
- people who maintain water, electricity, and similar systems.