President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa will be on lockdown as of Thursday 26 March 2020. A surge in the number of COVID-19 cases resulted in the escalated lockdown measures. On Tuesday, health minister Zweli Mkhize said that the number of confirmed cases had increased to 554.
“It is clear from the development of the disease in other countries and from our own modelling that immediate, swift and extraordinary action is required if we are to prevent a human catastrophe of enormous proportions in our country,” Ramaphosa said during a press briefing held on Monday night. He added that numbers were expected to rise and therefore decisive action was required an urgent and escalated response. “As a consequence, the National Coronavirus Command Council has decided to enforce a nation-wide lockdown for 21 days with effect from midnight on Thursday 26 March,” he added.
Between Thursday 26 March 2020 and 16 April 2020, all South African will be required to stay at home except for health workers in the public and private sectors, emergency personnel, and those in security services. Other conditions of the lockdown are:
- Individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances
- All shops and businesses will be closed, except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services, including the JSE, supermarkets, petrol stations and health care providers
- Companies that are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods and medical supplies will remain open
- Provision will be made for essential transport services to continue, including transport for essential staff and for patients who need to be managed elsewhere
Minerals Council’s response
The Minerals Council South Africa released a statement in response to the nation-wide lockdown – acknowledging that the president and his government needed to take radical and pre-emptive steps to arrest as far as possible the further spread of COVID-19. “We recognise the quality leadership government is showing in South Africa’s attempt to ‘flatten’ the rate of infection and the burden on healthcare systems. The industry supports efforts to enforce social distancing, including confining most people to their homes to prevent social and non-essential business activities for the next three weeks,” the statement read.
The council also recognised that the steps announced by Ramaphosa would potentially have a severe impact on the South African economy, including the mining industry. With reference to the mining industry, Ramaphosa said that companies whose operations require continuous processes such as furnaces, underground mine operations will be required to make arrangements for care and maintenance, to avoid damage to their continuous operations.
The Council said it was engaging with senior government leadership over the detail of the lockdown where the industry is concerned. This will include the nature of essential services and what will be required in terms of care and maintenance for non-operating facilities. In addition, it was also exploring what will be required to prevent the lockdown leading to permanent damage of the industry. There are marginal and lossmaking mines that would likely be unable to reopen should they be required to close fully, without remedial measures. The Council further emphasised that the mining industry’s intension to be at the forefront of exploring creative solutions that could assist the survival and eventual recovery of the industry and the economy.