On the evening of Monday 23 March, as South Africa’s population watched with bated breath, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21 day, nationwide ‘lockdown’ in an effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

It was one of those rare moments when South Africa united in agreement – this move was lauded as brave and indeed most necessary, especially at a time when media was (and still is) awash with newsflashes showing the devastating effect this virus has had in many other countries.

But united as we are, there will be no celebrations. The long term lockdown repercussions for an already embattled business sector is something that will surely be felt for years to come.

Locally, even as hordes of visitors arrive from Cape Town, Gauteng and other areas for the extended school holidays (or perhaps to isolate in much nicer surrounds than the metros), the lockdown has the hands of Sedgefield’s business sector tied so tightly, they can barely muster a welcome wave.

But the national lockdown is here for the right reasons, and it must be remembered that it is not a choice, it is the law.
(For those who missed it, President Ramaphosa’s speech appears in full on page 13.)

What is a lockdown?
A lockdown is an emergency protocol that requires South Africans to stay at home, except for essential purposes. All non-essential activities are suspended.
The full national lockdown will begin at midnight on Thursday 26 March and will continue for 21 days.

What is the purpose of a lockdown?
The nation-wide lockdown is necessary to fundamentally disrupt the chain of COVID-19 transmission. It will prevent the spread of the virus and thus save the lives of South Africans.

Who will remain at work?
A more detailed list of essential services will be released by government soon, but the basic ones include pharmacies, banks, supermarkets, petrol stations, media outlets, security companies and health care providers. Companies that are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods and medical supplies may also remain open.

So is it time to stockpile goods now?
No. Definitely not. Grocery stores and banking services will remain open throughout the lockdown period.

What will we be able to do under lockdown?
You will be able to :
– Seek medical care
– Buy groceries
– Visit the pharmacy
– Access banking services
– Get petrol
– Collect a social grant

What if we have an emergency?
Emergency services, including doctors, clinics, hospitals and pharmacies will continue to operate as usual.

What happens if we break the rules?
Anyone breaking the rules could be punished with imprisonment for up to one month or with a fine.

Can we go to work?
No. Unless you are part of the essential services listed earlier, you must stay at home. You may, however, work from home.

What should we do if we think someone in our family has contracted the coronavirus?
If you have a general practitioner, call them first for advice. It is far more likely to be the seasonal flu or another viral illness.
If you do not have a doctor and you are concerned that you or your child may have coronavirus, call your local hospital for assistance or advice.
Only people with symptoms of severe respiratory illness should go to their nearest emergency unit. Severe symptoms are rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, high or very low temperatures, confusion, trouble breathing and severe dehydration. Always inform the emergency unity of your arrival prior to entering the unit.