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Message for U.S. Citizens: “Lockdown” Clarifications (March 26, 2020)
March 26, 2020

The government of South Africa has implemented measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 by announcing a 21-day lockdown beginning 23:59 on Thursday, March 26, 2020.


What does it mean to on “lockdown?”

The lockdown is basically a governmental order to stay in your home and not leave unless it’s necessary. The intent of the order is to “ensure that people remain in their residences and minimize social interactions outside of their immediate family unit.”


What is the difference between a “lockdown” and social distancing?”

A lockdown is a more rigorous version of social distancing.  You’ll still want to maintain the principles of social distancing, like staying six feet away from others and washing your hands often, but you’ll now only leave your home for absolutely necessary activities, and you can’t participate in any gatherings.


Can I leave my home at all?

According to the South African government’s communications on the lockdown, people will be permitted to leave their homes during certain hours for “essential activities.”  Here are three “essential activities” that residents can do while they’re on lockdown unless they are already sick, in which case they’ll need to stay home to avoid spreading the virus.  These three exceptions include: taking care of your own well-being (i.e., picking up medicine at a pharmacy); obtaining supplies or delivering supplies to others (grocery shopping); or going to work at an essential business, like as a medical professional.  Note that movements to pharmacies and grocery stores can likely only happen during the authorized hours the South African government will announce.


Do I need to stock up on food and medicine?

While it’s always a good idea to have the food and medicine you need, essential retailers like pharmacies and grocery stores will still be open, albeit during limited daily hours.  It is likely that stores will have to limit the amount of people in the store at any given time, so make sure you’re productive when you go and get everything you need for as long as you can.


What other places will be open?

Hospitals, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, and banks will all be open, among others.  That means you can access essential goods and services.  Note that movement to grocery stores and pharmacies will likely be limited to certain hours per day.


What if I don’t follow the rules?

If you don’t follow the rules, you’ll likely face some consequences.  It’s up to the government of South Africa to police the lockdown, but you’ll likely face consequences if you get caught violating the regulations.  Perhaps worse than legal trouble, though, you’ll be putting your neighbors at risk.  So, if this guideline is put into place in your community, do your best to follow.


What do I need to take care of myself?


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends on its website to store a two-week supply of water and food, as well as over-the-counter medications you commonly take.  Water is very important.