THE LOCKDOWN or shut down as announced by the President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa has been welcomed by many, though small businesses will take the strain.
The three-week shut-down is to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus as the infection continues to grow and threaten to spiral out of control. At the time of publishing the number of cases had increased to 554.
It comes into effect at midnight on March 26 Thursday until April 16.
While Ramaphosa declared a national disaster a week ago and instituted travel bans, shut schools and banned large gatherings, those measures have failed to slow the pandemic’s spread.
“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 which has a large number of people with suppressed immunity,” says Ramaphosa, during the nation address that was inadvertently postponed to Monday evening from Sunday.
As early as Monday, army was seen on streets and will work with police enforcements to restrict movement countrywide.
“Immediate, swift and extraordinary action is required if we are to prevent a human catastrophe of enormous proportions,” Ramaphosa said. “While this measure will have a considerable impact on people’s livelihoods, on the life of our society and our economy, the human cost of delaying this action would be far greater.”
Ramaphosa announced several measures to help the economy and mitigate the pandemic’s impact, such as a four-month tax subsidy for low-income workers, and the establishment of a solidarity fund that will aid the hardest hit small businesses to keep afloat. This means hawkers and stalls that we see everyday at corners will no longer be visible.
SA’s richest families- the Oppenheimers and the Ruperts- each pledged 1 billion rand into the solidarity fund.
The president also made a clarion call to all South Africans to pledge the little they have.
Hospitals, emergency services, banks, filling stations, grocery-shops, pharmacies and JSE will remain open.
Today all ministers will map out their plans as part of supporting the lockdown and how they intend helping poorly serviced communities, amongst others.
Mass communication has not been rigorous enough by Government for failing to use community media in driving the Coronavirus message to far-flung areas.
The economic hub of the country Gauteng has 207 cases, thus far and with health system already under severe pressure the national government fears it will buckle under the weight of a flood of new infections.
Banks will be exempted from the lockdown so that they can meet to discuss a common approach to debt relief for embattled customers, and are expected to announce measures within days.
Other key measures:
- Regulations have been put in place to prohibit unjustified price hikes and ensure shops maintain adequate stocks of basic goods.
- A safety net is being developed to support those who work in informal jobs.
- The government is working on a plan to temporarily subsidize wages for employees of distressed companies to try and minimize job losses.
- The Unemployment Insurance Fund’s reserves will be utilized to support workers who lose their jobs.
- Tax-compliant businesses with a turnover of less than 50 million rand will be allowed to delay paying over a portion of their taxes for six months.
- The government is considering temporarily reducing employer and employee contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund and the Skills Development Fund.
- The Department of Small Business Development has allocated more than 500 million rand to assist distressed small and medium-sized companies.
- The Industrial Development Corp. and the Department of Trade and Industry will allocate more than 3 billion rand to assist vulnerable firms and provide funding to companies critical to efforts to fight the virus.
- The Department of Tourism has allocated 200 million rand to assist small and medium-sized tourism and hospitality businesses sector who are suffering because of travel restrictions.
The shutdown means no going to office, socializing or partying but will ONLY be allowed to visit bank, doctor, pharmacies, collection of SASSA grants, grocery stores.
“We are self-sufficient at the moment and therefore there is no need to embark on panic buying. The country has sufficient food supply. Panic buying will only cause disruption and inconvenience in the food system,” says Thoko Didiza- minister for Agriculture.
The department has set aside at least R1.2bn to assist the sector and ensure that there is sustainable food production during and post the coronavirus outbreak.
These funds would be directed mostly at assisting those who are producing vegetables and protein foods, Didiza said.
Meanwhile, Telkom has committed R15m to fight the battle against the virus.
The funds are meant to be directed to the country’s primary health system and will also be directed to vulnerable communities.
The SOE also announced it will not charge any data costs for students accessing learning material for universities and public schools.
Ed Note: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a new virus.
The disease causes respiratory illness (like flu) with symptoms such as a cough, fever, and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing.
You can protect yourself by washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and avoiding close contact (1 meter or 3 feet) with people who are unwell.
Health tips (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)
• Avoid contact with people who have respiratory infections
• Maintain social distancing – stay at least one metre away from somebody who is coughing or sneezing
• Practise frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as your hands touch many surfaces and could potentially transfer the virus
• Practise respiratory hygiene – cover your mouth with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Remember to dispose the tissue immediately after use.
CORONA VIRUS(COVID-19) 24-HOUR HOTLINE NUMBER: 0800 029 999
For more info visit: www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus https://www.nicd.ac.za/
Image (Army ready to take over streets in Joburg and other parts of the country as part of Covid-19 lockdown that begins from Thursday).