Why we need clear guidelines ahead of Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa: DA

The Democratic Alliance has called for the government to issue clear guidelines on the terms of lockdown – as ordered by president Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this week.

Ramaphosa ordered a 21-day lockdown with severe restrictions on travel and movement – beginning midnight on Thursday – to combat the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in the country.

In South Africa, the number of confirmed cases has increased dramatically to 709.

The exact terms of the lockdown have not yet been published, which has caused much confusion about what the public can and cannot do over the next three weeks, beginning Thursday.

DA member of parliament, Siviwe Gwarube, said: “As the country readies itself to go into lockdown, as was announced by president Cyril Ramaphosa this week, regulations pertaining to the lockdown are yet to be made public.

“The Disaster Management Act of 2002 gives the president and his Executive powers to institute measures that will contain the disaster that is being dealt with. However, regulations breathe life to those measures by guiding individuals, companies, employers and employees about what is permissible and what is not.”

While the regulations are yet to be published, the DA is calling for strict and clear implementation of these regulations. “We cannot afford mixed-messaging from our government at such a critical time,” Gwarube said.

“If we are to rely on South Africans to be partners during this time, then we need to ensure that the citizenry is well-informed and reminded throughout the 21-day period of what is allowed and what is not. This is where partnership with the public broadcaster and other broadcasters and telecommunications companies could really improve public awareness.”

On Wednesday morning, health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, confirmed that there are now 709 cases of those who have been infected by the coronavirus.

“This number is expected to rise exponentially over the coming days and weeks. This means that social distancing is now our best chance of breaking the transmission chain and reducing the number of people who will be infected. That is why clear communication to the public; increased testing capacity; availing of isolation facilities and encouraging those who can stay at home to do so, will be key,” Gwarube said.

The health minister also indicated that Mangaung could potentially be an epicentre due to the number of infections that are being discovered in that area following a church conference.

He said that around 50 new infections are as a result of that conference.

“This is concerning news as the Free State health system could struggle to cope with those who are infected and who require urgent medical attention. We need to avoid incidents like this from happening again across the country. This will only depend on whether strict implementation of the regulations is adhered to,” said Gwarube.

Similarly, when asked by SABC News on Wednesday whether people can walk their dogs and go out for walks, minister Mkhize said “that shouldn’t be a problem”. He said that people should be able to go to the shops to buy food and essentials during the 21-day lockdown.

In a separate interview with eNCA, Mkhize further clarified that South Africans will be able to jog and walk their dogs, but must do so alone or in very small groups with distance between people.

However, under the president’s orders – all South Africans will have to stay at home during the 21-day lockdown period.

People will only be able to leave their homes to buy food, visit the pharmacy, or seek medical care; or to collect a social grant, the president said.

Only health workers in public and private health sectors; emergency personnel; security services such as police and soldiers; those involved in the production and supply of food and basic goods; and those working in essential services would be exempted.

“South Africa can ill-afford to shut down the economy for three weeks and not have this national lockdown yield any meaningful results in our fight against this pandemic. Countries who have managed to flatten the curve and recover from the effects of Covid-19 did so because of strict social distancing measures.

“We need to get this right. There is no room for errors. While we encourage all South Africans to adhere to the lockdown, they can only do so if clear guidelines are made public and enforced,” Gwarube said.

The Government is expected to hold two meetings later on Wednesday to further outline its plans for the coronavirus lockdown. At 14h00, the Department of Communication, the Department of Arts & Culture, and the Department of Mineral Resources will address the country.

At 16h00, the ministers of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster together with Governance, State Capacity and Institutional Development (GSCID) will address the country.

Read: All South African restaurants, takeaways and food delivery to be closed during coronavirus lockdown

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Why we need clear guidelines ahead of Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa: DA