On 23 March 2020 President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the National Coronavirus Command Council has decided to enforce a nation-wide lockdown for 21 days with effect from midnight on Thursday 26 March 2020 to midnight on Thursday 16 April 2020.
This means that all South Africans will have to stay at home. There are however categories of people who will be exempted from this lockdown. This include, amongst others, people involved in the production, distribution and supply of food, as well as supermarkets.
This decision should be seen against the backdrop that the number of COVID-19 cases has escalated from 160,000 to over 340,000 confirmed cases across the world. In South Africa, the number of confirmed cases has increased six-fold in just eight days from 61 cases to 402 cases. According to the President, the nation-wide lockdown will be enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act and will entail the following:
- From midnight on Thursday 26 March 2020 until midnight on Thursday 16 April 2020, all South Africans will have to stay at home.
- The categories of people who will be exempted from this lockdown are the following: 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 our response to the pandemic. It will also include 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. A full list of essential personnel will be published.
- 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.
- 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.
- Companies that are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods and medical supplies will remain open.