Total containment for South Africa

Total containment of the population began this Friday at midnight. 60 million South Africans will have to stay at home for 21 days. South Africa, with 927 cases, is the first country on the continent to impose total containment. The measures were announced on Monday evening by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who said he wanted to prevent the explosion of the epidemic and a health disaster.

The authorities’ message is clear: “Stay at home”. Bars, restaurants, beaches, parks, churches are closed. No vehicle should circulate.

Only people working in vital sectors are allowed to leave their homes: hospitals, pharmacy, supermarkets, food stores. People working in the water and electricity sectors can also get to work. Coal mines, for example, remain operational to operate thermal power plants.

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It’s not about being outside, on the road, getting around, warned the Minister of Police Mbeki Cele. I have heard some people talk about going for a dog walk, there is no question of walking your dog! If it really is essential, it should be done around your house.

Containment, a health challenge …

Police, supported by the military, have been deployed to the streets to enforce this confinement, which may be difficult to enforce. First of all, from a health point of view, it is almost impossible to speak of confinement in the country’s townships, the slums of the apartheid regime, where 20% of the population still lives.

In the best known of them, in Soweto, hundreds of thousands of South Africans live in informal sheet metal habitats, often crowded together. There is almost no infrastructure there. Here and there, dozens of people share collective toilets.

… and economical

Containment is also an economic challenge for many. 55% of the population lives below the poverty line. Staying at home is synonymous with loss of income for three weeks, a tragedy for many families who already barely make ends meet at the end of the month, and who may be tempted to circumvent government measures.

A national plan will be put in place to support small businesses and employees who will be unemployed. A solidarity fund has also been created.

The Minister of Police has warned the population: those who leave without authorization will be fined or put in prison for six months. It remains to be seen whether the government is able to enforce containment. Because the South African army has shown its limits in the past, as in the townships of Cape Town, where it was recently deployed for seven months, without being able to prevent the gangs’ control of the neighborhoods.

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