Following last week’s special cabinet meeting on measures to tackle the coronavirus (COVID-19), President Cyril Ramaphosa took the stand on Monday, 23rd March 2020 to address the nation and announced a nationwide lockdown that will be implemented for 21 days.
The lockdown will be enforced from midnight on Thursday, 26 March 2020 to Thursday, 16 April 2020. In this case, people will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strict circumstances such as to seek medical care, buy food, medicine, and other supplies or collect a social grant.
However, this excludes Health workers in the public and private sectors, emergency personnel, those in security services (police, traffic officers, military medical personnel, soldiers), production and distribution of food and necessities, power suppliers, waterworks and telecommunications.
In addition, the SANDF (South African National Defence Force) has been mobilized to help the police force enforce the lockdown.
For a quick read, here are our key takeaways from Ramaphosa’s nation address on measures to tackle the coronavirus (COVID-19):
The president emphasized that everyone should follow these steps:
- Wash hands frequently with hand sanitizers or soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
- Cover our nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or flexed elbow;
- Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.
The National Coronavirus Command Council has decided to enforce a nation-wide lockdown for 21 days with effect from midnight (Thursday, 26 March until midnight on Thursday, 16 April 2020).
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.
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.
Shops and Businesses
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 whose operations require continuous processes such as furnaces, underground mine operations will be required to make arrangements for care and maintenance to avoid damage to their continuous operations.
South African National Defence Force
South African National Defence Force will be deployed to support the South African Police Service in ensuring that the measures we are announcing are implemented. This nationwide lockdown will be accompanied by a public health management programme which will significantly increase screening, testing, contact tracing, and medical management.
Firms that are able to continue their operations remotely should do so.
Community health teams will focus on expanding screening and testing where people live, focusing first on high density and high-risk areas.
Emergency water supplies – using water storage tanks, water tankers, boreholes, and communal standpipes – are being provided to informal settlements and rural areas.
Citizens arriving from high-risk countries
South African citizens and residents arriving from high-risk countries will automatically be placed under quarantine for 14 days.
Non-South Africans arriving on flights from high-risk countries we prohibited a week ago will be turned back.
International flights to Lanseria Airport will be temporarily suspended.
International travelers who arrived in South Africa after 9 March 2020 from high-risk countries will be confined to their hotels until they have completed a 14-day period of quarantine.
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 Rupert and Oppenheimer families have pledged R1 billion each to assist small businesses and their employees affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Banking and Grants
The old-age pensions and disability grants will be available for collection from 30 and 31 March 2020, while other categories of grants will be available for collection from 01 April 2020.
All channels for access will remain open, including ATMs, retail point of sale devices, Post Offices and cash pay points.
The banking system will remain open, the JSE will continue to function, the national payment system will continue to operate and the Reserve Bank and the commercial banks will ensure that banknotes and coins remain available.
Many large companies that are currently closed have accepted their responsibility to pay workers affected. We call on larger businesses, in particular, to take care of their workers during this period. Using the tax system, a tax subsidy of up to R500 per month for the next four months for those private-sector employees earning below R6,500 under the Employment Tax Incentive will be provided. This will help over 4 million workers.
Tax compliant businesses with a turnover of less than R50 million 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.
The Department of Small Business Development has made over R500 million available immediately to assist small and medium enterprises that are in distress through a simplified application process.
The Industrial Development Corporation has put a package together with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition of more than R3 billion for industrial funding to address the situation of vulnerable firms and to fast-track financing for companies critical to our efforts to fight the virus and its economic impact.
The Department of Tourism has made an additional R200 million available to assist SMEs in the tourism and hospitality sector who are under particular stress due to the new travel restrictions.
Strict Lockdown measures
Special units of the NPA are put together to act immediately and arrest those against who we find evidence of corruption.
In conclusion, President Ramaphosa asked that the public should help play their roll in the fight against the Coronavirus.