‘Absolutely the right thing to do’: Cyril’s lockdown plan to save SA
Here, in detail, is how things will work when we’re all confined to our homes for 21 days to halt Covid-19’s spread
In just shy of 28 minutes, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday evening announced the unthinkable – SA is going into lockdown for 504 hours.
It took him a full day to finetune the announcement, initially expected on Sunday evening, and probably many other days to consult and plan.
He emerged with a detailed road map that not even opposition parties could fault.
Because the bottom line is this, in his own words: “This is a decisive measure to save millions of South Africans from infection and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.”
It’s official: South Africa will be on lockdown for 21 days from midnight on Thursday.
It will be compulsory for people to stay at home. The army will be deployed to assist the police in making sure the measures are implemented and adhered to. Shelters will be found to accommodate the homeless, as well as sites for quarantine and self-isolation for people who cannot self-isolate at home.
“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. 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,” Ramaphosa said.
“We have learnt a great deal from the experiences of other countries. Those countries that have acted swiftly and dramatically have been far more effective in controlling the spread of the disease.”
He said while the measures would have a considerable impact on people’s livelihoods, our society and economy, the human cost of delaying this action would be far greater.
Ramaphosa listed a raft of measures to be implemented to contain the spread of global pandemic in the country.
Only health workers in the public and private sectors, emergency personnel, those in security services – such as the police, traffic officers, military medical personnel and soldiers – and other persons necessary for our response to the pandemic will be exempted from the lockdown.
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 will also be allowed to do their work.
But, Ramaphosa said 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.
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.
Provision will be made for essential transport services to continue, including transport for essential staff and for patients who need to be managed elsewhere, among the new measures.
Ramaphosa, who has held a string of meetings with business, politicians and religious leaders over the past two days, also announced the establishment of a Solidarity Fund, which South African businesses, organisations and individuals, and members of the international community, can contribute to.
He said the fund would focus efforts to combat the spread of the virus and help the government in tracking the spread, care for those who are ill and support those whose lives are disrupted. It will complement what is being done in the public sector. The fund will be chaired by Gloria Serobe, deputised by Adrian Enthoven.
Ramaphosa also announced measures to assist businesses weather the storm over the coming months.
Tax-compliant businesses with a turnover of less than R50m will be allowed to delay 20% of their pay-as-you-earn liabilities over the next four months and a portion of their provisional corporate income tax payments without penalties or interest over the next six months.
“This intervention is expected to assist over 75,000 small and medium-term enterprises,” said Ramaphosa.
The government is also exploring the temporary reduction of employer and employee contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund and employer contributions to the Skill Development Fund.
The president announced a relief fund of over R500m, available immediately to assist small and medium enterprises that are in distress through a simplified application process. The money will come from the Department of Small Business Development.
The Industrial Development Corporation has also put a package together with the department of trade, industry and competition of more than R3bn for industrial funding to help vulnerable firms and fast-track financing for companies critical to the efforts to fight the virus and its economic impact.
The department of tourism has made an additional R200m available to assist SMEs in the tourism and hospitality sector that are under particular stress due to the new travel restrictions.
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. May God protect our people.President Cyril Ramaphosa
Ramaphosa warned against bulk buying, saying supplies are available and remain continuous. He called out businesses selling certain goods at excessively high prices, saying “this cannot be allowed”.
“Regulations have been put in place to prohibit unjustified price hikes, to ensure shops maintain adequate stocks of basic goods and to prevent people from ‘panic buying’.”
He also vowed to crack down on any opportunists abusing the situation for corrupt activities.
‘Absolutely the right thing to do’
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen welcomed Ramaphosa’s announcement, saying the measures were of critical importance, also welcoming the announcement of a Solidarity Fund to support the vulnerable in the wake of this crisis.
“Locking down our country and deploying the SANDF is something no South African would ever want to see in peacetime, but given the severity of our challenge, it is absolutely the right thing to do. The threat of this virus is akin to a wartime situation, and this requires each of us to make sacrifices in our daily lives, and to some of the liberties of our democratic society,” he said.
Steenhuisen said the coronavirus threat will test SA’s healthcare system and also test the country’s ability to withstand an economic onslaught like nothing before.
“But above all, it will test the resolve of our people, and this is where we can take great strength. We have been through tough times before, and we have overcome our obstacles. We can do it again, as long as we are in the fight together.”
The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation said this was time for South Africans to reach across the inequity which divides them. “We are because of others; we cannot do it on our own,” it said in a statement.
“While isolating ourselves from each other seems at odds with the inter-dependent character and needs of humanity, we must find new safe ways to connect to and support each other through this unprecedented crisis.
“We must, in particular, do everything we can to prevent the exposure of vulnerable groups to the virus.”
With schools closed, children at home, I am convinced parents will discover a vaccine before the scientists do— Jonathan Jansen (@JJ_Stellies) March 21, 2020
People and businesses exempt from the lockdown
- Health workers in the public and private sectors;
- Those in security services - such as the police, traffic officers, military medical personnel, soldiers - and other persons necessary for our response to the pandemic;
- 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
- Those in the provision of medical and hygiene products.
All shops and businesses will be closed, expect for:
- essential financial and payment services, including the Johannesburg Stock Exchange;
- petrol stations; and
- healthcare providers.
"Any other businesses that are able to continue their operations remotely should do so," said Ramaphosa.