President Ramaphosa announces 21-day national shutdown

23 MARCH 2020

My fellow South Africans,
It is a week since we declared the coronavirus pandemic a national disaster and
announced a package of extraordinary measures to combat this grave public health
The response of the South African people to this crisis has been remarkable.
Millions of our people have understood the gravity of the situation.

Most South Africans have accepted the restrictions that have been placed on their
lives and have taken responsibility for changing their behaviour.
I am heartened that every sector of society has been mobilised and has accepted
the role that it needs to play.
From religious leaders to sporting associations, from political parties to business
people, from trade unions to traditional leaders, from NGOs to public servants, every
part of our society has come forward to confront this challenge.
Many have had to make difficult choices and sacrifices, but all have been determined
that these choices and sacrifices are absolutely necessary if our country is to
emerge stronger from this disaster.
Over the past week, South Africans have demonstrated their determination, their
sense of purpose, their sense of community and their sense of responsibility.
For this, we salute you and we thank you.
On behalf of the nation, I would also like to thank

On behalf of the nation, I would also like to thank the health workers, our doctors,
nurses and paramedics who are on the frontline of the pandemic, our teachers,
border officials, police and traffic officers and all the other people who have been
leading our response.
Since the national state of disaster was declared, we have put in place a range of
regulations and directives.
These regulations have restricted international travel, prohibited gatherings of more
than 100 people, closed schools and other educational institutions and restricted the
sale of alcohol after 6pm.
We reiterate that the most effective way to prevent infection is through basic
changes in individual behaviour and hygiene.
We are therefore once more calling on everyone to:
– wash hands frequently with hand sanitisers or soap and water for at least 20
– cover our nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or flexed
– avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.
Everyone must do everything within their means to avoid contact with other people.
Staying at home, avoiding public places and cancelling all social activities is the
preferred best defence against the virus.
Over the past week, as we have been implementing these measures, the global
crisis has deepened.
When I addressed the nation last Sunday there were over 160,000 confirmed
COVID-19 cases worldwide.
Today, there are over 340,000 confirmed cases across the world.
In South Africa, the number of confirmed cases has increased six-fold in just eight
days from 61 cases to 402 cases.
This number will continue to rise.
It is clear from the development of the disease in other countries and from our own
modelling that immediate, swift and extraordinary action is required if we are to
prevent a human catastrophe of enormous proportions in our country.
Our fundamental task at this moment is to contain the spread of the disease.
I am concerned that a rapid rise in infections will stretch our health services beyond
what we can manage and many people will not be able to access the care they
We must therefore do everything within our means to reduce the overall number of
infections and to delay the spread of infection over a longer period – what is known
as flattening the curve of infections.
It is essential that every person in this country adheres strictly – and without
exception – to the regulations that have already been put in place and to the
measures that I am going to announce this evening.
Our analysis of the progress of the epidemic informs us that we need to urgently and
dramatically escalate our response.
The next few days are crucial.
Without decisive action, the number of people infected will rapidly increase from a
few hundred to tens of thousands, and within a few weeks to hundreds of thousands.
This is extremely dangerous for a population like ours, with a large number of people
with suppressed immunity because of HIV and TB, and high levels of poverty and
We have learnt a great deal from the experiences of other countries.
Those countries that have acted swiftly and dramatically have been far more
effective in controlling the spread of the disease.
As a consequence, the National Coronavirus Command Council has decided to
enforce a nation-wide lockdown for 21 days with effect from midnight on Thursday 26
This is a decisive measure to save millions of South Africans from infection and save
the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
While this measure 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 nation-wide lockdown will be enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act
and will entail the following:
– From midnight on Thursday 26 March until midnight on Thursday 16 April, all
South Africans will have to stay at home.
– The categories of people who will be exempted from this lockdown are the
following: health workers in the public and private sectors, emergency personnel,
those in security services – such as the police, traffic officers, military medical
personnel, soldiers – and other persons necessary for our response to the pandemic.
It will also include those involved in the production, distribution and supply of food and
basic goods, essential banking services, the maintenance of power, water and
telecommunications services, laboratory services, and the provision of medical
and hygiene products. A full list of essential personnel will be published.
– Individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled
circumstances, such as to seek medical care, buy food, medicine and other
supplies or collect a social grant.
– Temporary shelters that meet the necessary hygiene standards will be identified
for homeless people. Sites are also being identified for quarantine and selfisolation for people who cannot self-isolate at home.
– All shops and businesses will be closed, except for pharmacies, laboratories,
banks, essential financial and payment services, including the JSE, supermarkets,
petrol stations and health care providers.
Companies that are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods
and medical supplies will remain open.
We will publish a full list of the categories of businesses that should remain open.
Companies whose operations require continuous processes such as furnaces,
underground mine operations will be required to make arrangements for care and
maintenance to avoid damage to their continuous operations.
Firms that are able to continue their operations remotely should do so.
– Provision will be made for essential transport services to continue, including
transport for essential staff and for patients who need to be managed elsewhere.
The nation-wide lockdown is necessary to fundamentally disrupt the chain of
transmission across society.
I have accordingly directed the South African National Defence Force be deployed to
support the South African Police Service in ensuring that the measures we are
announcing are implemented.
This nationwide lockdown will be accompanied by a public health management
programme which will significantly increase screening, testing, contact tracing and
medical management.
Community health teams will focus on expanding screening and testing where
people live, focusing first on high density and high-risk areas.
To ensure that hospitals are not overwhelmed, a system will be put in place for
‘centralised patient management’ for severe cases and ‘decentralised primary care’
for mild cases.
Emergency water supplies – using water storage tanks, water tankers, boreholes
and communal standpipes – are being provided to informal settlements and rural
A number of additional measures will be implemented with immediate effect to
strengthen prevention measures. Some of those measures are that:
– South African citizens and residents arriving from high-risk countries will
automatically be placed under quarantine for 14 days.
– Non-South Africans arriving on flights from high-risk countries we prohibited a
week ago will be turned back.
– International flights to Lanseria Airport will be temporarily suspended.
– International travellers who arrived in South Africa after 9 March 2020 from highrisk countries will be confined to their hotels until they have completed a 14-day
period of quarantine.
Fellow South AfricansOur country finds itself confronted not only by a virus that has infected more than a
quarter of a million people across the globe, but also by the prospects of a very deep
economic recession that will cause businesses to close and many people to lose
their jobs.
Therefore, as we marshal our every resource and our every energy to fight this
epidemic, working together with business, we are putting in place measures to
mitigate the economic impact both of this disease and of our economic response to
We are today announcing a set of interventions that will help to cushion our society
from these economic difficulties.
This is the first phase of the economic response, and further measures are under
consideration and will be deployed as needed.
These interventions are quick and targeted.
Firstly, we are supporting the vulnerable.
– Following consultation with social partners, we have set up a Solidarity Fund,
which South African businesses, organisations and individuals, and members
of the international community, can contribute to.
The Fund will focus efforts to combat the spread of the virus, help us to track the
spread, care for those who are ill and support those whose lives are disrupted.
The Fund will complement what we are doing in the public sector.
I am pleased to announce that this Fund will be chaired by Ms Gloria Serobe and the
deputy Chairperson is Mr Adrian Enthoven.
The Fund has a website – – and you can begin to deposit
monies into the account tonight.
The Fund will be administered by a reputable team of people, drawn from financial
institutions, accounting firms and government.
It will fully account for every cent contributed and will publish the details on the
It will have a board of eminent South Africans to ensure proper governance.
To get things moving, Government is providing seed capital of R150 million and the
private sector has already pledged to support this fund with financial
contributions in the coming period.
We will be spending money to save lives and to support the economy.
In this regard, we must applaud the commitment made in this time of crisis by
the Rupert and Oppenheimer families of R1 billion each to assist small
businesses and their employees affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
– We are concerned that there are a number of businesses that are selling
certain goods at excessively high prices. This cannot be allowed.
Regulations have been put in place to prohibit unjustified price hikes, to ensure shops
maintain adequate stocks of basic goods and to prevent people from ‘panic
It is important for all South Africans to understand that the supply of goods remains
continuous and supply chains remain intact.
Government has had discussions with manufacturers and distributors of basic
necessities, who have indicated that there will be a continuous supply of these
goods. There is therefore no need for stockpiling of any items.
– A safety net is being developed to support persons in the informal sector,
where most businesses will suffer as a result of this shutdown. More details will
be announced as soon as we have completed the work of assistance measures
that will be put in place.
– To alleviate congestion at payment points, 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 01 April 2020.
All channels for access will remain open, including ATMs, retail point of sale devices,
Post Offices and cash pay points.
Secondly, we are going to support people whose livelihoods will be affected.
– We are in consultation on a proposal for a special dispensation for companies
that are in distress because of COVID-19. Through this proposal employees
will receive wage payment through the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme,
which will enable companies to pay employees directly during this period and
avoid retrenchment.
– Any employee who falls ill through exposure at their workplace will be paid
through the Compensation Fund.
– Commercial banks have been exempted from provisions of the Competition Act
to enable them to develop common approaches to debt relief and other
necessary measures.
We have met with all the major banks and expect that most banks will put measures in
place within the next few days.
– Many large companies that are currently closed have accepted their
responsibility to pay workers affected. We call on larger businesses in particular
to take care of their workers during this period.
– In the event that it becomes necessary, we will utilise the reserves within the
UIF system to extend support to those workers in SMEs and other vulnerable
firms who are faced with loss of income and whose companies are unable to
provide support. Details of these will be made available within the next few
Thirdly, we are assisting businesses that may be in distress.
– Using the tax system, we will provide a tax subsidy of up to R500 per month for
the next four months for those private sector employees earning below R6,500
under the Employment Tax Incentive. This will help over 4 million workers.
– The South African Revenue Service will also work towards accelerating the
payment of employment tax incentive reimbursements from twice a year to
monthly to get cash into the hands of compliant employers as soon as possible.
– Tax compliant businesses with a turnover of less than R50 million will be
allowed to delay 20% of their pay-as-you-earn liabilities over the next four
months and a portion of their provisional corporate income tax payments
without penalties or interest over the next six months. This intervention is
expected to assist over 75 000 small and medium-term enterprises.
– We are exploring the temporary reduction of employer and employee
contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund and employer contributions
to the Skill Development Fund.
– The Department of Small Business Development has made over R500 million
available immediately to assist small and medium enterprises that are in
distress through a simplified application process.
– The Industrial Development Corporation has put a package together with the
Department of Trade, Industry and Competition of more than R3 billion for
industrial funding to address the situation of vulnerable firms and to fast-track financing for companies critical to our efforts to fight the virus and its economic
– The Department of Tourism has made an additional R200 million available to
assist SMEs in the tourism and hospitality sector who are under particular
stress due to the new travel restrictions.
I want to make it clear that we expect all South Africans to act in the interest of the
South African nation and not in their own selfish interests.
We will therefore act very strongly against any attempts at corruption and profiteering
from this crisis.
I have directed that special units of the NPA be put together to act immediately and
arrest those against who we find evidence of corruption.
We will work with the judiciary to expedite cases against implicated persons and
make sure the guilty go to jail.
South Africa has a safe, sound, well-regulated and resilient financial sector.
Since the global financial crisis, we have taken steps to strengthen the banking
system, including increasing capital, improving liquidity and reducing leverage.
With a strong financial sector and deep and liquid domestic capital markets, we have
the space to provide support to the real economy.
We can make sure money flows to firms and households.
We can ensure that our markets are efficient.
Last week, in line with its Constitutional mandate, the South African Reserve Bank
cut the repo rate by 100 basis point. This will provide relief to consumers and
The South African Reserve Bank has also proactively provided additional liquidity to
the financial system.
The Governor has assured me that the Bank is ready to do ‘whatever it takes’ to
ensure the financial sector operates well during this pandemic.
The banking system will remain open, the JSE will continue to function, the national
payment system will continue to operate and the Reserve Bank and the commercial
banks will ensure that bank notes and coins remain available.
The action we are taking now will have lasting economic costs.
But we are convinced that the cost of not acting now would be far greater.
We will prioritise the lives and livelihoods of our people above all else, and will use
all of the measures that are within our power to protect them from the economic
consequences of this pandemic.
In the days, weeks and months ahead our resolve, our resourcefulness and our unity
as a nation will be tested as never before.
I call on all of us, one and all, to play our part.
To be courageous, to be patient, and above all, to show compassion.
Let us never despair.
For we are a nation at one, and we will surely prevail.
May God protect our people.
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso.
God seën Suid-Afrika. God bless South Africa.
Mudzimu fhatutshedza Afurika. Hosi katekisa Afrika.
I thank you.

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