SA to implement a 21-day lockdown from midnight Thursday: Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation address at parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, on February 13, 2020. [Reuters] 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday that the government would impose a nationwide 21-day lockdown from midnight on Thursday to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

In an address to the nation, Ramaphosa said the army would be deployed to assist the police during the lockdown. South Africans will still be able to leave their homes to buy food, seek medical care and collect social grants, Ramaphosa added.

South Africa reported a sharp jump in confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday to 402, from less than 50 just over a week ago, as the army prepared to deploy in each of the country’s nine provinces, according to an official document seen by Reuters.

South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced the steep rise in cases in a statement on Monday.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a national state of disaster and imposed measures such as travel bans to curb the spread of coronavirus. He is expected to address the nation later on Monday on new measures to mitigate its impact.

A South African Army memorandum seen by Reuters on Monday detailed plans to deploy at least an infantry “sub-unit” to each of the country’s nine provinces and two in Gauteng, which includes the capital Pretoria and commercial hub of Johannesburg, where roughly half of the infections have been reported.

The deployment will last from March 23 for 21 days, but could be extended for a further three months, the memorandum said.

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Siphiwe Dlamini, spokesman for the South African National Defence Force, said he would not comment on any plans to deploy the army until Ramaphosa’s address.

The memorandum states that army staff may arrest someone they see committing a crime.

South Africa confirmed its first coronavirus case on March 5, and analysts expect Ramaphosa to announce stricter measures to slow its spread in the country of around 58 million people.

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosacoronavirus