Watch: townships ignore lockdown as first coronavirus deaths reported in South Africa

Images emerged on Friday (27 March) of people flouting the lockdown in South Africa, mere hours of it being enforced.

President Cyril 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.

However, on Friday morning, images from the SABC news team showed that in Alexandra Township, in Sandton, it was ‘business as usual’ as locals flocked to the shops to get food and other essentials.

SABC News reporter, Hasina Gori, highlighted the number of people ‘milling’ around the streets. She noted that taxi drivers continue to operate, “flouting the rules of this lockdown’ being loaded to capacity, despite various ministers’ calls against the practice.”

She said that people are not adhering to any social distancing, or ensuring that they remain a safe distance from each other.

“Here in Alexandra, you would think it is a normal Friday,” she said, noting that not many people appeared to understand the protocols enforced under the lockdown.

Worryingly, there appeared to be little to no police presence in the area.

Several hours into the lockdown in South Africa, and arrests have already been made at establishments which broke the rules early Friday morning.

SABC News covered the arrests, with people who visited a tavern in Hillbrow arrested in the early hours of Friday morning. The manager of the tavern was also arrested.

The government has published the final regulations that all South Africans would have to adhere to.

The document includes details on which businesses will close down over the period, and which services are considered essential. It also details the restriction of movement.

For the period of lockdown: every person is confined to his or her place of residence, unless strictly for the purpose of performing an essential service, obtaining an essential good or service, collecting a social grant, or seeking emergency, life saving, or chronic medical attention.

Movement means entering or leaving a place of residence or, in the case of people nor ordinarily resident in the Republic, their place of temporary residence while in the Republic.

Prison warning

South Africans will not be able to purchase alcohol or walk their dogs during the lockdown period, police minister Bheki Cele said at a press briefing on Wednesday (25 March).

Cele said that the decision was made to protect South Africans and encourage social distancing as he announced a number of other prohibitions.

“There shall be no food at restaurants. There is no need to be on the road. There is no need to move around. There was a little bit of a story earlier on that you can walk your dogs. There shall be no dogs that will be walked,” said Cele.

Buying and transporting alcohol has also been prohibited, said Cele. “The movement of the alcohol or liquor can be restricted. There shall be no movement of liquor. If we find liquor in your boot, that is illegal,” said Cele.

The full list of prohibitions and closures announced by Cele include:

  • Any place or premises where religious, cultural, sporting, creative or organisational events take place;
  • Any place where non-essential goods are being sold;
  • Public parks, beaches, pools, bazaars, flea markets;
  • Night clubs, casinos, lodges, hotels, resorts – except where tourists are being held;
  • Private and public game farms;
  • Consumption premises such as taverns, bars, pubs and shebeens;
  • Liquor stores and sections selling alcohol in supermarkets;
  • Theatres and cinemas;
  • Shopping malls – except for supermarkets;
  • Restaurants;
  • No walking of dogs or jogging – after cabinet clusters determined it would not serve the interest of the lockdown.

The police minister said that South Africans face strict punishments for breaching these prohibitions including a fine, or imprisonment of up to six months.

First coronavirus deaths

South Africa has experienced its first coronavirus-related deaths, according to the Department of Health, as confirmed cases hit over 1,000.

The two deaths occurred in the Western Cape, one at a private hospital and the other at a public hospital.

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said that more information would follow soon.

“We will give more details later on, when we announce the latest confirmed Covid-19 cases, which have increased from yesterday’s number and have now tipped the 1,000 mark,” he said.

The news of the first Covid-19 deaths in the country come on the first day of a 21-day lockdown initiated to curb the spread of the virus.

Alan Winde, premier of the Western Cape called it a very sombre day. He said that the coronavirus can affect any person, noting that the deceased included a 28 year-old female, and 48 year-old female.

He called on South Africans to follow the lockdown orders, and to adhere to the heightened rules.


Read: First coronavirus deaths in South Africa as confirmed cases go over 1,000 

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Watch: townships ignore lockdown as first coronavirus deaths reported in South Africa