Johannesburg, March 24 (IANS) As cases of COVID-19 passed the 400 mark on Monday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said a countrywide lockdown would be implemented on Thursday.
The 21-day lockdown would last until April 16, the president announced in Pretoria, Xinhua news agency reported.
“Staying at home, avoiding public places and cancelling all social activities is the preferred best defence against the virus,” he announced.
The announcement comes after numbers of coronavirus cases jumped to 402 from 274 overnight.
National Coronavirus Command Council held meetings with different stakeholders at the weekend where the need to escalate response to the pandemic was reached.
“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,” said the president, “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.”
Most shops would be closed except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services, including the JSE, supermarkets, petrol stations and health care providers.
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.
The president said South African National Defence Force to be deployed to support the South African Police Service in ensuring that the measures we are announcing are implemented.
Ramaphosa said this nationwide lockdown will be accompanied by a public health management program which will significantly increase screening, testing, contact tracing and medical management.
He admitted the devastating impact the lockdown would have on the economy and announced a set of interventions such as setting up a Solidarity Fund to support the vulnerable to help cushion the country from economic difficulties.