Most city streets empty, but township shoppers not phased by national lockdown
On Friday morning the country woke up to Day 1 of the national lockdown, and the sobering news of the death of two Cape Town patients linked to Covid-19.
Yet, in some areas the harsh regulations to curb the spread of the coronavirus did not appear to be being taken seriously. On the first day of lockdown residents of townships flocked to the shops, ignoring the call to stay indoors.
Bheki Cele, the Minister of Police, said in a briefing that there had been 172 roadblocks involving close to 24 000 officers countrywide, with the major ones on the N1, N3 and N4. A total of 55 arrests were made, 20 in Gauteng and some people on their way out of the province had been turned back, he said.
Cele said discussions were ongoing to find an answer on how to handle the issue of shopping and long queues seen yesterday. Some people who join those queues were not there to do shopping, but had gone there for “outings”, he said. “We are urging people to stay put for 21 days to help save everyone”.
He appealed to citizens to be partners to defeat the scourge of coronavirus, but warned that if they did not, “we will pull you to walk with us.”
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula described those trying to leave Gauteng for other provinces on the N1 to Limpopo and Zimbabwe long after 12 midnight (on Friday) as undermining the lockdown. He did admit some problems getting essential workers to and from work on the first day of the lockdown which would be addressed with the taxi industry.
Trade and Industry Minister, Ebrahim Patel said most of the economy had heeded the call to shut down. While there were reports of some companies which stayed open when not essential, they were in the minority.
Five hundred complaints were being acted on against suppliers which exploited the crisis, and he said the government would not hesitate to charge such businesses criminally.
New regulations have updated the list of basic goods to include personal toiletries and baby products. While Patel thanked the majority of South Africans for heeding the lockdown, he said there was a need to decrease the number of people in stores and shorten the queues..
50 000 companies employing 1.5million staff had registered as providing essential services, Patel said.
By late Friday, there were more than half a million known cases of Covid-19 worldwide - though the figure is likely to be significantly higher - and more than 25 000 deaths. The US has the highest number of cases and Italy the highest number of deaths.
Government spokesman Jackson Mthembu said of the two deaths in SA, one was confirmed and one suspected to be linked to coronavirus.
The lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa follows international trends as a means to stop the spread of the virulent virus, and includes a shutdown of airports and ports, leaving a number of holidaymakers still outside the country stranded, while foreign governments are working to evacuate their citizens from the country early next week.