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South Africans brace for 21-day lockdown as virus cases rise

People across South Africa are bracing for a 21-day lockdown after the government announced sweeping new measures to tackle the spread of the new coronavirus.  "From midnight on Thursday, March 26 until midnight on Thursday, April 16, all South Africans will have to stay at home," President Cyril Ramaphosa said late on Monday in a televised address to the nation. Africa News
"This is a decisive measure to save lives of South Africans from infections and to save lives of hundreds of thousands of our people," he added.  Africa Medical News
On Tuesday,  the number of confirmed cases leapt again to 554 - just over a week ago, the figure was 62. The surge has raised alarms that a wider outbreak would put under serious stress the country's already strained healthcare system in one of the world's most unequal societies.
Ramaphosa stressed that people will still be able to leave their homes to seek medical care, buy food or collect a social grant.

All shops and businesses are to close, with the exemption of pharmacies, laboratories, banks, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, supermarkets, petrol stations and healthcare providers.
Health workers, emergency personnel and security services will be allowed to work, while soldiers will be deployed to patrol the streets in support of the police. Africa Political News
By imposing the lockdown, the government hopes to avoid the spread of the coronavirus in crowded townships and informal settlements where access to clean water for hand-washing can be scarce and self-quarantine practices are hard to apply. 
"While this measure will have a considerable impact on people’s livelihoods, on the life of our society and on our economy, the human cost of delaying this action would be far, far greater," the South African president said.

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For a country already grappling with an almost 30 percent unemployment rate and low economic growth, the lockdown could be disastrous for the economy. Africa Distribution Service

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