South Africa will impose a nationwide lockdown for 21 days from midnight on Thursday to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday, as the number of confirmed cases jumped by 128 to 402.
Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation that Africa’s most advanced economy needed urgently and dramatically to escalate its response to curb the spread of infection.
“From midnight on Thursday 26 March until midnight on Thursday 16 April, all South Africans will have to stay at home,” Ramaphosa said, adding that people would still be able to leave their homes to seek medical care, buy food or collect a social grant.
“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.”
Ramaphosa said health workers, emergency personnel and security services would be among those exempt from the lockdown.
All shops and businesses will be closed except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, supermarkets, petrol stations and healthcare providers.
Soldiers will be deployed on the streets to support the police, and international travellers who arrived in South Africa after March 9 from “high-risk” countries will be confined to their hotels until they have completed a 14-day period of quarantine.
Ramaphosa said a first phase of the government’s economic response would include assisting businesses in distress and a package of more than 3 billion rand ($170 million) of funding for industrial firms.
The president earlier this month declared a national state of disaster over the coronavirus, imposing travel bans affecting countries like China, Germany, Britain and the United States.