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23 Mar 2020 | 04:22 PM UTC

South Africa: Country to impose nationwide, 21-day lockdown from March 26 to curb COVID-19 spread /update 3

South Africa to impose nationwide, 21-day lockdown from March 26 to curb coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread; further international spread of COVID-19 to be expected over near term

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Event

On Monday, March 23, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country will implement a nationwide, 21-day lockdown from midnight (local time) on Thursday, March 26, until midnight on Thursday, April 16, to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the country. South Africans will still be permitted to buy food, seek medical care, and collect social grants. Emergency responders, health workers, and security services staff are exempted from the lockdown measures. All businesses will reportedly be closed except for supermarkets, pharmacies, laboratories, banks, petrol stations, health-care providers, and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

As of March 23, over 400 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in South Africa. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.

Context

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia. 

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.