Covid-19: Fines will be issued for price hiking, citizens should not panic buy, say ministers
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Johannesburg - As the 21-day national lockdown looms, South Africans have been encouraged not to panic buy and firms have been warned not to hike prices.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a national lockdown on Monday and said it would begin on Thursday night and run until April 16.
This was necessary to ensure that the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus was brought under control, the president said.
The ministers involved in the Covid-19 team briefed the media on Tuesday to expand on Ramaphosa's address which included the explanation of how the lockdown will be implemented.
The lockdown will exclude essential service workers such as emergency service personnel, grocery stores will remain open and pharmacies.
The Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize had announced that the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus now stood at 554. He said it was hard to predict when the curve would flatten and that it may take weeks to measure whether the government's measures were working.
He said that so far there have been 12815 tests conducted and over 10 000 have been conducted by the private sector while the other 2000 cases were tested in public laboratories.
Mkhize said healthcare officials had to fill out a form which listed a coronavirus patient's details. The patient would also be required to provide a list of contacts to ensure that officials can trace possible patients. He said those who resisted providing contact information will have their names published and could face possible prosecution if they do not follow regulations.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Thoko Didiza said all food retailers and firms that formed part of the food production chain would remain open to ensure that the supply of food remains. She said the government has been engaging with food manufacturers on what aspects of their industries were crucial to maintaining the chain of supply.
Didiza said no panic buying would be tolerated as measures were in place to ensure that essential stores remained open.
Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel said there have been reports of firms hiking prices and the Competition Commission was currently investigating 11 firms that sell sanitisers, face masks and gloves who were suspected of hiking prices.
Patel said the penalties for price hiking were extreme and fell between R1 million or 10% of the company's turnover.
Patel said concerned citizens could report corrupt price hiking on 0800 014880.
The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) would be set aside R3 billion to assist businesses during this time. Another cushion will be the Solidarity Relief Fund which has received a cash boost of R2 billion from Rupert and Oppenheimer families. The government has also injected R150 million into the fund and all South Africans who can are encouraged to contribute to the fund. The funds will help small medium sized businesses during this period.