The exponential growth of the number of coronavirus cases in South Africa in the past few days has raised fears of a looming full-blown covid-19 outbreak in the country, resulting in the government implementing a 21 day nationwide lockdown in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus. The lockdown, which was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in an address to the nation on Monday, came into effect on Thursday midnight (March 26, 2020, 23:59) and will remain in effect until April 16 (23:59) .
During the lockdown all businesses (with a few exceptions) will be closed and South Africans are expected to stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary to go out. Essential services and personnel will continue operating to ensure that the critical needs of all citizens are met during the lockdown. “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. 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,” the president said. The full list of services considered to be essential has been published here.
On Wednesday Police Minister Bheki Cele announced that the selling, purchasing and movement of alcohol from point A to point B would not be allowed during the lockdown.
Members of the South African National Defence force have been deployed across the country to support the police in enforcing the measures of the lockdown.
The coronavirus, formally known as SARS-CoV-2, emerged in Wuhan, China in December 2019. It is the causative agent of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a highly infectious disease of the respiratory system. Covid-19 currently infects over 500 000 people worldwide and has claimed more than 24 000 lives.
In South Africa, the first coronavirus case was reported on the 5th of March. Twenty one days later, the number of confirmed cases rose sharply to 927. It is hoped that the lockdown will reduce the infection rate and make the outbreak more manageable. At the time of this writing, no deaths linked to the virus had been reported in the country and at least four patients had recovered.