South Africa will go into lockdown for three weeks from midnight on Thursday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday night that the National Command Council on the coronavirus said this was a necessary step to contain the spread of global pandemic.
South Africans would have to “stay at home” until midnight on April 16.
“This is a decisive measure to save lives of South Africans from infection and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of our people. While these measures 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.
“The nationwide lockdown will be enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act, and will entail the following from midnight on Thursday March 26, until midnight Thursday April 16. All South Africans will have to stay at home,” the president said.
Ramaphosa said essential services personnel would be the only ones exempted, including police, healthcare workers and those involved in the supply of goods, including food.
“We must do everything in our means to delay the spread of infection over a long period. It is essential that every person should adhere strictly to the regulations and measures we are announcing,” said Ramaphosa.
“The next few days are crucial. Without decisive action the number of infected people will increase.”
He was addressing the nation on the government’s interventions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the country.
Earlier on Monday, health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said that the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases had risen to 402.
Ramaphosa admitted that the lockdown would hurt.
“The action we are taking now will have lasting economic costs. But we are convinced that the cost of not acting now will be much greater. We will prioritise the lives and the livelihoods of our people, `above all else. We’ll use all of the measures that are within our power to protect our people from the economic consequences of this pandemic,” he said.
“In the days, weeks and months ahead, our resolve, our resourcefulness and our unity as a nation is going to be put to a test as never before. I call on all of us, one and all, to play our part in our role as South Africans — to be courageous, to be patient and above all to show solidarity and compassion to one another.
“Let us never despair, despite the challenges that our country is facing now. For we are a nation of one, and we are surely going to prevail.”
During his address, Ramaphosa announced that the Rupert and Oppenheimer families had pledged R1bn each towards the fight against Covid-19 in SA.
The president further announced the setting up of a solidarity fund, wherein all businesses and private individuals were urged to make donations. The fund, said Ramaphosa, will account fully for every cent donated and publish statement in its website.
“The fund will complement what we are doing in the public sector. It will be chaired by Ms Gloria Serobe,” said Ramaphosa. “Anyone can begin to deposit funds into this account acting in solidarity with South Africans.” It will fully account for every cent contributed and publish details on its website.”
He lauded the Ruperts and Oppenheimers for their donation.
“We must applaud the commitment that has been made by Rupert and Oppenheimer of R1bn each to support victims affected by coronavirus,” he said.
This is a developing story.
By Zingisa Mvumvu