Last night president Cyril Ramaphosa held a press conference addressing the nation with regards to the COVID-19 outbreak. Having recently declared it a national disaster, the situation has escalated, with Ramaphosa stating that a 21-day long countrywide lockdown will take effect from midnight on 26th March.

The president also outlined which essential professions, businesses and industries will still be functioning during that time, and would be exempt from many of the restrictions that will be imposed on the country later this week.

“The nation-wide lockdown is necessary to fundamentally disrupt the chain of transmission across society,” the president pointed out.

While the country attempts to flatten the curve, the presidency noted that health workers in the public and private sectors, emergency personnel, security services such as the police, traffic officers, military medical personnel, soldiers and other persons necessary to respond to COVID-19, would remain exempt during the lockdown.

In terms of people in specific industries, he highlighted those involved in the production, distribution and supply of food and basic goods, essential banking services, the maintenance of power, water and telecommunications services, laboratory services, and those assisting with the provision of medical and hygiene products, as also being exempt.

“Companies that are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods and medical supplies will remain open,” said Ramaphosa.

He also made special mention of companies whose operations require continuous processes, such as furnaces and underground mine operations, with them being required to make arrangements for care and maintenance to avoid damage to their continuous operations.

The president did not note specific companies in this regard, but we think Eskom is one organisation where this would apply, and as such we’re hoping the power utility takes necessary steps during this time.

He also stressed the importance for companies, and in particular large enterprises, to allow its employees to work remotely at this time. Those that are not able to are urged to let their employees head home in a bid to promote social distancing, along with ensuring that no one is fired during the lockdown and following weeks.

“Firms that are able to continue their operations remotely should do so,” he emphasised.

The president brought up the small-to-medium enterprise (SME) space too, noting that plans for that sector would be detailed in coming days. As such SMEs need to be on the lookout for whatever plans, potential funding and initiatives that government announces this week.

While we have seen the number of local COVID-19 cases rise steeply over the past few days, it’s worthwhile noting the positive steps that government is taking for its citizens and businesses moving forward.

As the president stated during his speech last night, swift immediate action needs to be taken in order to address this national disaster.

[Image – Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash]