South Africa

CORONAVIRUS

Take no chances: Your lockdown travel questions answered

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

After President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an imminent shutdown, many details were left out, leaving South Africans with panicked questions. Among the questions posed to us by Maverick Insiders were those to do with travelling and caring for ill relatives. The short answer is: take no chances. If you need to be in another part of the country soon, it’s best you arrange to get there before the lockdown.

The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) and Governance, State Capacity and Institutional Development (GSCID) clusters held press briefings to iron out some of the wrinkles left in the wake of the President’s announcement on 23 March. For one, Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, repeatedly emphasised that all non essential movement will be prohibited during the 21-day lockdown starting at midnight on Thursday, 26 March.

“The lockdown means we limit our movement. We stay where we are. The only time that we move is if there is anything of necessity that says we must move,” said the minister.

This means that only people who are rendering essential services are allowed to use the modes of transportation which are otherwise suspended. 

According to the minister, long distance transport services such as the Shosholoza Meyl and Gautrain have already been suspended and Metrorail and airlines will follow once the lockdown is in effect.

However, public transport such as taxis and buses will be operating to transport workers who render essential services such as healthcare providers and Eskom employees. Municipalities will also be open with only key essential staff reporting for duty to ensure basic services remain continuous.

Despite the continuation of public transport, their operation will be restricted to four hours in the morning, and another four hours in the evening.

“Taxis will be allowed to operate for essential services between 5am to 9am in the morning, and also in the evening,” said Mbalula.

People who have planned to travel after the lockdown comes into effect either by land or air will not be permitted to do so unless they are travelling to provide essential services. This applies regardless of the reasons citizens might cite for their travel. And since all long distance transport has been suspended, interprovincial travel for any reason and by any individual will not be possible.

“There will be no airlines coming from outside expected here except if it is cargo for essential service. And even in terms of that cargo, our direction is that they will not disembark,” said Mbalula.

Both private and public healthcare workers will be allowed to commute to their places, including to homes of private patients.

Ordinary citizens who are “providing services to older people” are included among those who are allowed to move outside of the stipulated times and cited for essential services, said the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, at the press conference in Gauteng.

Supermarkets, pharmacies and other health services will still be operational during the lockdown period as they are considered essential services. However, the range of products that can be bought will be limited to essentials such as food items and medical supplies.

Minister Mbalula encouraged South Africans to keep their movement minimal and as close to their places of residence as possible. However, should individuals need to move further than their immediate surroundings, they will be required to prove that such movement is essential.

Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, said people who contravene the regulations face a jail sentence of up to six months, a fine, or both.

The lockdown is not a punishment but rather a means to minimise movement and, by extension, reduce the spread of the virus, explained Dlamini Zuma. 

However, a few details still need to be clarified. Mbalula still has to iron out how people who use public transport to do grocery shopping will be accommodated in the restricted public transport schedule.

“Nothing is cast in stone, yet the main issue is the enforcement of the lockdown,” said Mbalula.

If, at present, you are not where you need to be at a later day which falls within the lockdown period, you will not be permitted to make that move during the lockdown. DM

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