From jogging to Huntavirus: Your Coronavirus lockdown questions answered

21 days of lockdown… and soooo many questions. How does this all work? We found answers to your most pressing queries. 

1. What is a “national lockdown” exactly?

Think of it as step two after an official State of Disaster has been called – and halfway to the most extreme step a government can take, which is declaring a state of emergency. A lockdown can take place in certain areas, or across the entire country, like this one. It’s an emergency protocol the government puts in place to get a situation under control. It orders that everyone stays in their home, except for essentials like health care and groceries. 

It falls under the Disaster Management Act. Declaring a state of disaster and then a national lockdown allows a democratic government to act faster than it usually could. Governments have checks and balances on their power to ensure they can’t abuse it, but these are eased back during a state of disaster to allow the state to quickly put in place new laws that are needed, like criminalising the spread of misinformation about the virus, and suspend usual individual rights, like freedom of movement. 

2. And when does all this kick in? 

Great question. When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the lockdown would kick in from Thursday midnight, many of suddenly seemed to forget how time actually works. Did that mean Wednesday going into Thursday? Or Thursday going into Friday?

Everyone was driving themselves a little crazy so the head of digital communications in the presidency stepped in to provide some clarity:

The lockdown will officially kick in on the evening of Thursday, March 26 at 23:59 – to be exact. 

So, when you wake up on Friday – your 21 days of being homebound begins.

3. Wow. So what are the rules?

There may be a bunch of rules in Fight Club but there’s only one rule in Lockdown Club: Don’t leave your house, except for essential services. 

The army is deployed to make sure that one rule is followed.  

4. And what makes the grade as “essential services”? Because I’ve been putting off this haircut for a while…

Yeah, we’re afraid that trip to the barber isn’t going to make the list, so best get that done BEFORE Friday. Things you can do during the lockdown include:

  • Going to the doctor 
  • Visiting grocery stores
  • Going to the pharmacy
  • Going to the bank
  • Collecting your social grant 
  • Going to the petrol station 
  • Going to a funeral where there are less than 50 people

5. Can I go for a jog or walk my dog during the lockdown?

No. Jogging and dog walking is not allowed during the lockdown.

There were initially mixed signals about this issue – which seemed to be the biggest question for a lot of people. But the final answer from authorities is that leaving one’s house for exercise – human or canine – is forbidden.

Try streaming some online fitness classes – here’s a list to get you started.

6. Will my favourite fast food joints be open? Surely deep-fried chicken is critical to the well-being of South Africans in this time?

We agree, but no restaurants, take-aways or even food deliveries, we’re afraid. So that means no Nandos, no KFC and… wait for it… no Chicken Licken. Hold our hand. It’s going to be ok.

Top tip: stock up on some chicken and Nandos sauce at your local grocery store and muddle through best you can. You’ll be fine.

7. What about alcohol and ciggies? Can I get those?

Eish, We’re sorry to break this to you but you won’t be able to buy alcohol during the shutdown either – AT ALL. Not before six and not in the liquor aisle in your supermarket. Ocsober is here early. You can also say goodbye to cigarettes for the next 21 days. Maybe a good time to kick the habit? Otherwise, stock up before Friday.

8. I’m one of those small business owners Cyril kept mentioning. I’m freaking out so much right now I lost track of what’s being offered. What are my options?

There’s a bunch of measures on offer to alleviate your pain as a small business owner, both from the presidency and the Department of Small Business from tax exemptions on PAYE for a few months, pause on business loans (for Standard Bank customers for now, with other banks sure to follow suit), and short term UIF relief to your employees so you don’t have to retrench. Workers who earn less than R6500 will receive a R500 top-up. A lot of this is still being clarified. A website has been set up to help businesses access help but it takes some time to access when we tried, given the volume of people applying: You can try it here. www.smmesa.gov.za. It has over R500 million available immediately to assist small and medium enterprises that are in distress through a simplified application process. 

Check out some of the other measures for small business owners here

9. Is it true that Rupert and the Oppenheimers are donating A BILLION RAND each? How does someone even have that much money?

As The South African notes, SA’s two wealthiest families are… pretty wealthy. Even with the coronavirus market crash, which wiped, hundreds of millions of rands were wiped off of their net worth

Nicky Oppenheimer is worth just over R100 billion and Johan Rupert just over R90 billion. They’re both ranked in the top 300 wealthiest people in the world. 

Capitalism, guys. Capitalism. 

Their donations are going to the Solidarity Fund set up by government to help the most vulnerable. You can donate to it too, here. It seems to have some pretty robust controls and oversight to ensure the money is looked after.

10. I have joint custody of my child – will I get to see them during the lockdown?

There was no clear cut answer to this, but for the safety of both you and your child, government is encouraging parents to rather stay put with their child. They suggest that between you and your partner you should make a decision on who gets to spend time with their child for the next 21 days. It sucks, we know.

11. I don’t feel safe in my home – who do I call for help?

You have not been forgotten. If you feel unsafe, or threatened by your partner, you can turn to the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre for help. The police have also set up a line especially for women and children feeling afraid and vulnerable during the lockdown.

Police: 0800 150 150

GBV Command Centre: 0800 428 428 or *120*7867# for the call-back service.

12. Can I use any e-haling services to get around?

Yes, but only if you’re an essential worker. Uber will only be available between 5am to 9am and from 4pm to 8pm.

13. Will there be load shedding during the lockdown?

The guys working to supply electricity are expected to show up to work. So, if they keep things under control, our electricity supply will be uninterrupted, but if the generation system fails, Eskom might, as a last resort, decide to implement load shedding.

14. While we’re on the topic I heard there’s ANOTHER animal to human virus on the loose… What the heck is the Huntavirus and should I be worried? ?

In one word, No. Sure, it’s yet another disease transmitted from animals to humans, this time rodents. But, crucially, it can’t be transmitted between humans. So unless you’ve been playing with deer mice specifically, and got their saliva or urine on you, you should be fine. More here

15. What happens if things are still bad after 21 days?

The bad news is… The lockdown could be extended. According to the Disaster Management Act, a lockdown can last between 21 and 90 days. A State of Emergency can only go for 21 days.  

At a government briefing following Ramaphosa’s announcement, a spokesperson said there was a team working on the models every day. Their work will influence a decision on what might happen in 3 or 4 weeks.

The fact is, it will take several weeks of lockdown before we see infections go down. If we don’t see enough of a dip, the lockdown may have to be extended.  

By Aarti Bhana and Verashni Pillay

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3 thoughts on “From jogging to Huntavirus: Your Coronavirus lockdown questions answered”

  1. Thanks #explain.co.za this goes a long way to answering questions. Tried getting a dentist appointment for my dad and some are under the misconception they should close as they don’t see dentist as essential workers even for emergencies!

    1. Hi there. We said NOT to jog in groups, initially, when the health ministry said jogging was allowed. However the police ministry subsequently said NO jogging whatsoever. So you don’t get to leave your house except for reasons listed under essential services!

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