Amanda Watson
News Editor
7 minute read
25 Mar 2020
6:00 am

ABC of lockdown – who can do what?

Amanda Watson

What is allowed and when, during the 21-day national lockdown that kicks in at midnight on Thursday? Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel spells out the dos and don’ts

Picture: iStock

As the countdown ticks towards the stroke of midnight on Thursday when President Cyril Ramaphosa’s lockdown comes into effect, throngs of people are scrambling in a mad rush to do their shopping.

And as this unfolds, questions as to who can do what, where and when and how it should be done and who’s allowed to do it have become everyone’s immediate focus.

The answer to all these is: it all depends on who you are, what you do and when you need to do it.

As the starting point, everyone stays at home from Friday morning for three weeks.

You will be able to leave to buy food and soap, as well as other essentials, Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel said yesterday.

“Grocery stores, supermarkets and spaza shops will remain open during the enforced lockdown,” Patel said. “We call on our people to limit the trips to shopping centres for the purpose of shopping for food and basic goods only, and not to gather in shopping malls.

“Pharmacies will remain open during the lockdown. Healthcare professionals providing essential services to the public will be open as well.”

Companies and people essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods and medical supplies will remain open during the 21-day lockdown.

“This means that essential personnel required for the continued functioning of these companies will be exempted from the stay-home provisions,” Patel said.

He also emphasised that all items – food and beverages, medical suppliers, personal products, hygiene products and cleaning products – would remain available.

“All businesses essential for the production and distribution of these essential items will be allowed to remain in operation during the lockdown. Businesses like grocery stores, supermarkets, pharmacies and spaza shops, especially, will be asked to educate their staff and customers on the required protocols and to practise social distancing,” he said.


Essential people to possibly be included in the pending government gazette:

  • Those responsible for essential care of the elderly and sick persons, including homecare and old-age homes;
  • Essential private security services for the protection of property and persons;
  • All essential back-office services to enable salary and human resource departments to work so as to ensure smooth management of wage and salary payments;
  • Essential animal welfare and emergency veterinary services;
  • Those who assist in transporting food and other essentials to homes including online retail, as well as transport systems that support any of the essential services;
  • Key maintenance systems required at workplaces to avoid serious damage to economic assets, where the interruption of that service will destroy critical working areas, factories or machinery;
  • Members of parliament, provincial legislatures, municipal councils and their core staff, as well as government departments and public entities’ staff responsible to assist with implementation of the measures announced by the president, as they will all need to be working to make the country safe;
  • Members of the media and broadcasting services, who will serve as a vital communication between government and the public;
  • Transportation of fuel, food and basic goods supply trucks between SADC countries.
  • The purpose of this illustrative list is to show that government are taking into account the critical services that should remain open.
  • Common sense may be the biggest weapon SA has against the virus.


Given the sharp spread of the virus in certain locations, we need to rapidly move to a lockdown of all non-essential and critical business continuity services.

Essential and critical business continuity services will need to remain open to support the health sector and to keep our people healthy, safe, and secure under these extraordinary conditions. We provide the following guidelines as to what businesses need to remain open. We ask all businesses and people to take this seriously and to help us respond as effectively as possible to contain and minimise the impact of Covid-19.

During the course of the lockdown, the following services will need to be maintained:


  1. Electricity – stable power supply with no load shedding

Public and private organisations, their staff and service providers essential to the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity will need to continue to operate.  This includes municipalities, and the suppliers of logistics, feedstock and maintenance will be required to continue to operate and provide security of electricity supply.

  • Water supply, sewerage and sanitation

Public and private organisations, their staff and service providers essential to the security of supply of bulk and potable water and sanitation must continue to operate and provide vital water and sanitation services.  This includes municipalities and those involved in the supply of materials, chemicals  and related equipment.

  • ICT – datacentres, fibre optic infrastructure, towers and antennae

We have extensively engaged with the ICT sector and are satisfied that connectivity will remain stable during this period. In this time industry collaboration will be critical to ensure that society remains connected and functional. The ICT sector including data centres, fibre optic providers, towers and antennae will need to operate at high capacity.

The industry will collaborate and use multiple data sets to provide predictive insights into spread and impact dynamics of the crisis which will enable government and society’s ability to be proactive in measures that reduce the curve and social and economic impact of the spread.  ​

Social platforms will allow our people to remain socially included and these platforms remain critical to the dissemination of accurate information. However, our citizens are reminded that cyber security is off the utmost importance and to be vigilant to cyber criminals who will, during this time, try to exploit the public.


  • Food & essential products – related manufacturing and processing, and distribution

In order to ensure that people remain well-nourished and apply high personal hygiene to combat the spread of Covid19, the following operations will continue:

  • Manufacturing of health-related products, supplies, devices, equipment, and medicines, including complementary health products; food and essential products, as well as essential inputs thereto.
  • Agricultural and food supply related operations, including farming, veterinary and phyto-sanitary provider services, pest control services, and chemical and fertiliser providers.
  • Fishing operations
  • Forestry and sawmills will remain in production for disposable health and hygiene products, including toilet paper; as well as for the production of packaging for essential health and food supply chains.
  • Food, beverages and essential products manufacturing and processing facilities
  • Warehousing, transport and logistics for food & essential products, and health related goods
  • The Ports, road and rail networks will remain open in order to facilitate the import and export of essential products.
  • Food outlets – retail, wholesale, spaza shops and malls for food and essential products.

Essential products include: toilet paper, cleaners, sanitisers and disinfectants, personal hygiene products, bedding and clothing, and essential supplies for those taking care of the sick and in order for people to remain healthy.

  • Enabling Services

To assist in the Covid-19 response, the following services are required to continue operations:

  • All healthcare related services be they public or private.
  • Call centres providing life and health; energy, food and water supply, social, transactional, communications, law and order and international critical business continuity services.
  • Professional and artisan services, to the extent that they are providing support in the Covid-19 response, essential and critical business continuity services.
  • Cleaning, laundry and hospitality services supporting the Covid-19 response and essential and critical business continuity services.
  • Hotels, airlines, stadiums, car rental services, to the extent that they are supporting essential or critical business continuity services and repurposing for
  • Financial and insurance services and health funders required to finance and support essential and critical business continuity services in the Covid-19 response, and provide short term bridging finance to people and businesses during this period.
  • Anti-poaching and wildlife conservation services.
  • Communication and media services on screen, TV, radio, print, broadcast and online.
  • Safety and security services protecting people and property.
  • Work from Home

We encourage people to continue to remain productive and work from home. However, this must the basis that it does not require contact with people not residing in the home, and it does not interfere in any manner with the Covid19 response.

A detailed list will be made available in due course. Other than the above, businesses will need to shut down during the lockdown.

These are extreme measures, but essential in order to secure the safety and health of South Africans in the face of this unprecedented pandemic.

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