21-day lockdown: SA grinds to a halt

Note: This is a developing story. It will be updated as new information becomes available.

On Monday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a nationwide 21-day lockdown to halt the progress of the coronavirus, and as such deployed the SANDF to help SAPS maintain order. The lockdown is effective as of 23:59:59 on Thursday, 26 March 2020.

Questions have been rife about who will shut down, who can go where and who will be able to do what.

Who will be affected by the lockdown?

The short answer is: almost everyone. No one, with the exception of the exempted listed below, will be allowed to leave their homes for the 21 days unless under strictly controlled circumstances, such as to buy food or medicine, seek medical care or collect a social grant.

The homeless will be housed in shelters which meet hygiene standards, or will be asked to self-isolate in quarantine sites which will be identified.

What can you NOT do during this time?

People will not be allowed to:

  • Gather for any event, including church services, parties or weddings
  • Visit family members in hospital – NetCare Hospitals have suspended visiting hours
  • Operate or visit restaurants, bars, coffee shops or takeaway places
  • Operate non-essential delivery services such as Uber Eats and Mr D Food
  • Visit malls for the purpose of recreational shopping (such as shopping for clothes or goods)
  • Visit casinos, fleamarkets, parks, cinemas, taverns, hotels, game reserves, lodges or guesthouses
  • Purchase or sell alcohol
  • Walk or jog outside

Who will stay open?

All businesses and shops will be closed for this period except for:

  • Pharmacies
  • Laboratories
  • Veterinary services
  • Banks
  • Essential financial and payment services, including the JSE
  • Supermarkets
  • Petrol stations
  • Healthcare providers
  • Spaza shops will remain open and be supported with bulk buying and in other ways, to keep their selves full
  • Essential municipal services, such as rubbish collection
  • Courier services moving essential goods

“Companies that are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods and medical supplies will remain open,” Ramaphosa said.

Among those who will be closed are:

  • Restaurants, cafes, bars and coffee shops
  • Non-essential public-facing businesses

Businesses who can remain open by working remotely should do so.

Who will be exempted?

People necessary for the response to the virus are exempted from the lockdown:

  • Health workers
  • Emergency personnel
  • Security services (police, traffic officers, military medical personnel and soldiers)
  • Those involved in the production, distribution and supply of food and basic goods
  • Essential banking services workers
  • Those working in maintenance of power, water and telecommunications services
  • Laboratory service workers
  • Workers providing medical and hygiene products
  • Workers providing essential municipal services, such as rubbish collection

South Africa’s burning questions on restricted movement

  • Are you able to walk to the shops?
    Only to shops within your immediate area.
  • Are you able to go jogging or cycling?
    No. You are to remain in your property.
  • Will you be able to visit friends or family?
    No. Movement is only for the vital functions of obtaining food, medicine, medical care or social grants.
  • In families where parents are divorced and custody is shared, will you be able to share your children?
  • Will you be able to visit parents or loved ones in old age homes or hospitals?
    No. Movement is only for the vital functions of obtaining food, medicine, medical care or social grants.
  • How will people be able to shop?
    People are encouraged to use the shops closest to their houses. Shops will be mandated to keep a distance of 1m between patrons. No more than 50 people will be allowed in the shop at any one time. It is advisable that only one person is in a vehicle at any one time. If you are transporting someone to get medical care, they are to sit at the back of the vehicle with the window open.
  • Will people be allowed to walk their pets?
    No. You are to walk them in your property.
  • Will movement be limited in complexes?
    Movement inside complexes will be dictated by the complex governing body, but the mandate is to stay at home unless absolutely necessary.
  • Are bottle shops classed as essential?
    No. These will be closed for 21 days. People may not sell or transport alcohol from one place to another.
  • Can your boss force you to take your annual leave during this period?
  • Will Home Affairs be open?
    Only on skeleton staff, to issue temporary IDs, replacement birth certificates and death certificates. No new applications will be considered.
  • If your driver’s licence expires during lockdown, will you be able to renew?
    No. All licences that expire in the next 21 days will be given a grace period for renewal. All driving tests scheduled during this period will happen once the lockdown is over.
  • How many people can attend a funeral?
    Should a person die during the next 21 days, only 50 people may attend the funeral. No night vigils may be held.

Freedom of movement

Harsher restrictions have been placed on travellers coming in and going out of the country:

  • South African citizens arriving in the country will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine period
  • International travellers arriving from high-risk counties will simply be turned back
  • Those who landed after 9 March from high-risk countries will be confined to their hotels for a 14-day quarantine period
  • No rail will operate in the public or private sector
  • Only essential air cargo will be allowed in
  • No cruise ships will be allowed at port
  • Essential cargo will be allowed at our eight seaports
  • Minibus taxis may transport essential services workers only, from 05:00 to 09:00, and from 16:00 to 20:00 daily
  • Bolt, Uber and other e-hailing services will be able to operate for essential services workers only, from 05:00 to 09:00, and from 16:00 to 20:00 daily
  • Buses will be able to operate for essential services workers only, from 05:00 to 09:00, and from 16:00 to 20:00 daily

Economic safety net

Ramaphosa reiterated the dire impact Covid-19 could have on the economy, which could cause businesses to close and many to lose their jobs.
A number of measures have been implemented:

  • The creation of a solidarity fund geared at support for those whose lives have been disrupted and to combat the virus. Contribute at www.solidarityfund.co.za
  • The creation of a Debt Relief Fund by the Department of Small Business Development
  • 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 1 April 2020
  • Wage payments for employees through the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme will help companies pay employees during this period and avoid retrenchment
  • Employees who fall ill due to exposure in the workplace will be paid through the Compensation Fund
  • Government will provide tax subsidies of up to R500 a month for the next four months to private sector employees earning less than R6 500
  • Government has encouraged all employers to continue to pay staff where possible
  • Traditional shut-down periods over Christmas may be scrapped in 2020


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