South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown does not mean a ‘shutdown’: government

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has clarified that South Africa’s 21-day coronavirus lockdown is not a ‘shutdown’ and that citizens will still be able to leave their homes in specific circumstances.

In a series of tweets published on Wednesday (25 March), the department said that there is ‘no need to panic’ about being stuck in your home.

“People will still be allowed to get to shops and access essential goods and services but in small numbers. It is up to all of us to minimise our movement,” it said.

“Only undertake essential trips outside your home such as to get food, seek medical care or access supplies. When leaving your home try and go out alone, plan your trip and get in and out of your destination as quickly as possible.

“Practice hygiene when you go out, wash your hands when leaving home, do so again at your destination and before you depart for home.”

This aligns with comments made by health minister Zweli Mkhize who said that people will be able to walk their dog, and go for a jog during a three-week lockdown.

“What we really want to avoid is people congregating in large numbers, big meetings. What we also want to discourage, is people inviting friends over. People must keep their distance,” the minister said.

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, he cautioned that people will pay a price if they think they are on a three-week holiday. “Between people, is where we are going to stop the virus from spreading. We would like people to stay at home,” he said.

“People must stay at home, and not travel around, and not mix in large groups. This disease will not be defeated by doctors and nurses. It will be defeated by individuals. We are cutting down on massive movement,” the minister stressed.

Still lacking clarity

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.

However, the exact terms of South Africa’s lockdown have not yet been published, which has caused much confusion about what the public can and cannot do over the next three weeks, said the Democratic Alliance.

“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,” said DA member of parliament, Siviwe Gwarube,.

“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.

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.

Read: Essential staff will have to carry permits when travelling during the coronavirus lockdown – here’s how it works

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South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown does not mean a ‘shutdown’: government