South Africa has extended its emergency COVID-19 measures, enforcing a three-week lockdown in an effort to limit the spread of the deadly virus.
In the week since the country declared a state of national disaster, the number of confirmed cases has increased sixfold. The total count of confirmed cases stood at 402 by Monday afternoon, the highest number so far for any country in Africa, according to the World Health Organization.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Monday the 21-day lockdown will begin at midnight Thursday and he called on the country to “urgently and dramatically” escalate its response.
“Immediate, swift and extraordinary action is required if we are to avoid human costs of this virus,” said President Ramaphosa.
He warned that if the nation failed to act swiftly, it could face a human catastrophe of enormous proportions.
President Ramaphosa said this was troubling especially in a country with a large immune-suppressed population of HIV and tuberculosis patients.
“The action we are taking now will have lasting economic costs. But we are sure that the cost of not acting now will be far greater,” he said.
“Under the lockdown, people will not be allowed to leave their homes except to buy food, medical supplies, collect social grants or seek medical attention.
“All shops and businesses will be closed except for pharmacies, supermarkets, petrol stations and health care providers as well as laboratories, banks and other essential financial services. Essential personnel including health care workers, emergency and security personnel necessary to the response will also be exempt.
The South African National Defense Force will be deployed to assist the South African Police Service.
The South African leader called on people to act in the interest of the nation and not out of self-interest.
“We are a nation of one and we are surely going to prevail.”