By Ashok Ramsarup :: The South African government has decided to introduce a countywide lockdown effective from Thursday until the 26th of March for 21 following the Novel Coronavirus-19 that had become a global catastrophe. The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 has risen to more than to more 400.
President Cyril Ramaphosa decided to take the drastic measures following the input by the National Coronavirus Command Council in a bid to combat the COVID-19 virus plaguing the country.
Speaking from the Unions Buildings in the country’s capital, Pretoria, President Ramaphosa describing the pandemic as a national disaster, announced a package of extraordinary measures to combat this grave public health emergency.
The president said: “From religious leaders to sporting associations, from political parties to business people, from trade unions to traditional leaders, from non-governmental organisations to public servants, every part of the society has come forward to confront this challenge.
“Many have had to make many difficult choices and sacrifices, but all have been determined that these choices and sacrifices are absolutely necessary if the country is to emerge stronger from this disastrous disease,” he said.
He heaped huge praises on South Africans for demonstratingtheir determination, their sense of purpose, their sense of community and their sense of responsibility.
The health workers, the doctors, nurses and paramedics who had been on the frontline of the pandemic, the teachers, border officials, police and traffic officers and all the other people who had been leading the response, commented Ramaphosa.
President Ramaphosa said the decision had been taken by theNational Coronavirus Command Council to enforce a nation-wide lockdown for 21 days with effect from midnight on Thursday in a bid to save millions of South Africans from infection and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
While most South Africans will have to stay at home, but health workers in the public and private sectors, emergency personnel, those in security services, including the police, traffic officers, military medical personnel, soldiers – and other persons necessary for the response will be on duty to help in the fight against the pandemic
Ramaphosa said: “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 andtelecommunications services, laboratory services, and the provision of medical and hygiene products. A full list of essential personnel will be published.”
He made it abundantly clear that “individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlledcircumstances, 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. A full list is expected to be published soon of the categories of businesses that’s should remain open,” he said.
The government has established a Solidarity Fund, which South African businesses, organisations and individuals, and members of the international community, can contribute to. The Fund is focusing on efforts to combat the spread of the virus, help us to track the spread, care for those who are ill and support those whose lives are disrupted.
Ramaphosa commented: “The government is providing seed capital of R150-million and the private sector has already pledged to support this fund with financial contributions in the coming period. The money will be spent to save lives and to support the economy.”
He lauded the sacrifice and commitment made during this time of the crisis by the Rupert and Oppenheimer families of providing one billion Rand each to assist small businesses and their employees affected by the Novel Coronovaris-19 pandemic.
Ashok Ramsarup is award-winning senior journalist of South Africa