Na­tion on lock­down

All but es­sen­tial busi­nesses to close for 21 days

Go! & Express - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW FIELD

In what will un­doubt­edly be­come a defin­ing mo­ment in SA his­tory, Cyril Ramaphosa ad­dressed the na­tion on Mon­day evening and an­nounced a 21-day na­tional lock­down in re­sponse to the on­go­ing Covid-19 pan­demic.

As of Tuesday March 24, the num­ber of in­fected in SA stood at 554, with the num­ber likely to in­crease fur­ther.

The lock­down, which comes into play at mid­night on Thurs­day, will in­volve the clos­ing of all busi­nesses deemed not es­sen­tial.

The only busi­nesses ex­empt from the lock­down will be phar­ma­cies, lab­o­ra­to­ries, banks, es­sen­tial fi­nan­cial and pay­ment ser­vices, in­clud­ing the JSE, su­per­mar­kets, petrol sta­tions and health­care providers.

In ad­di­tion, in­di­vid­u­als will be for­bid­den from leav­ing their homes for the du­ra­tion of the lock­down ex­cept un­der strictly con­trolled cir­cum­stances. These cir­cum­stances in­clude seek­ing med­i­cal care, pur­chas­ing food or medicine and col­lect­ing a so­cial grant.

“The na­tion­wide lock­down is nec­es­sary to fun­da­men­tally dis­rupt the chain of trans­mis­sion across so­ci­ety.

“I have ac­cord­ingly di­rected the South African Na­tional De­fence Force be de­ployed to sup­port the South African Po­lice Service in en­sur­ing that the mea­sures we are an­nounc­ing are im­ple­mented,” he said.

The pres­i­dent ac­knowl­edged that the lock­down would make the cur­rent eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion in SA even more pre­car­i­ous.

“Our coun­try finds 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.

Ac­cord­ing to Ramaphosa, a Soidar­ity Fund has been set up to help care for those in­fected or who have had their lives dis­rupted.

The fund will be chaired by Glo­ria Ser­obe with Adrian En­thoven as deputy chair and will be ad­min­is­tered by a team drawn from govern­ment, ac­count­ing firms and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions.

“To get things mov­ing, govern­ment is pro­vid­ing seed cap­i­tal of R150m and the pri­vate sec­tor has al­ready pledged to sup­port this fund with fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tions in the com­ing pe­riod,” he said.

More in­for­ma­tion about the fund can be found at www.sol­i­dar­i­ty­fund.co.za

Ramaphosa also said that the govern­ment was tak­ing ac­tion to com­bat a spike in price gaug­ing by in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses.

He also asked peo­ple to avoid panic-buy­ing or hoard­ing, es­pe­cially of ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties.

“It is im­por­tant for all South Africans to un­der­stand that the sup­ply of goods re­mains con­tin­u­ous and sup­ply chains re­main in­tact,” Ramaphosa said.

To help keep track of in­fec­tions and com­bat the spread of Covid-19, Ramaphosa said there would be a fo­cus on ex­pand­ing screen­ing and test­ing, es­pe­cially in high­den­sity 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.”

Emer­gency wa­ter sup­plies will be de­liv­ered to ru­ral ar­eas along with stor­age tanks, new bore­holes and com­mu­nal stand­pipes.

Travel in and out of the coun­try has also been heav­ily re­stricted. SA cit­i­zens and res­i­dents ar­riv­ing from high-risk coun­tries will be placed un­der im­me­di­ate quar­an­tine for 14 days while non-South Africans ar­riv­ing on flights from high-risk coun­tries will be turned back.

In­ter­na­tional trav­ellers who ar­rived in the coun­try from high­risk coun­tries af­ter March 9 will be con­fined to their ho­tels for a 14-day quar­an­tine and in­ter­na­tional flights to Lanse­ria Air­port have been sus­pended.

While he urged SA res­i­dents to re­main calm, Ramaphosa said such strict mea­sures were nec­es­sary given the sever­ity of the Covid-19 pan­demic.

“In the days, weeks and months ahead, our re­solve, our re­source­ful­ness and our unity will be tested as never be­fore.

“I call on all of us, one and all, to play our part, to be coura­geous, to be pa­tient and, above all, to show com­pas­sion.

“Let us never despair. For we are a na­tion at one, and we will surely pre­vail,” he said.

Pic­ture: ESA ALEXANDER

DRAS­TIC MEA­SURES: Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa an­nounced a 21-day na­tional lock­down on Mon­day, start­ing from mid­night on Thurs­day

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