President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a national lockdown in South Africa as the government announced measures to curtail the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
"The National Coronavirus Command Council has decided to enforce a nation-wide lockdown for 21 days with effect from midnight on Thursday 26 March. This is a decisive measure to save millions of South Africans from infection and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people," Ramaphosa said addressing the nation from the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
"While this measure will have a considerable impact on people’s livelihoods, on the life of our society and on our economy, the human cost of delaying this action would be far, far greater.
Earlier on Monday, the health department announced that South Africa had 402 cases of Covid-19.
During his address, Ramaphosa said that the nationwide lockdown will be enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act.
This would entail that from midnight on Thursday, March 26 to midnight on April 16, 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," he 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 and telecommunications services, laboratory services, and the provision of medical and hygiene products. A full list of essential personnel will be published."
Ramaphosa said people would 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".
For homeless people, he said, temporary shelters that meet the necessary hygiene standards would be identified. Sites were also being identified for quarantine and self-isolation for people who cannot self-isolate at home, he said.
Ramaphosa said that all shops and businesses would be closed, except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services, including the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (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. We will publish a full list of the categories of businesses that should remain open," Ramaphosa said.
"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."