South Africa to begin nationwide lockdown to try to stem spread of coronavirus

South Africa to begin nationwide lockdown to try to stem spread of coronavirus
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South Africa's president announced Monday that the country will implement a nationwide lockdown to prevent the further spread of coronavirus.

The Associated Press reported that President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the measures Monday evening in a speech to the nation, calling the decision necessary to "disrupt" the spread of the disease across the country. Just over 400 people have reported cases in South Africa.

“This nationwide lockdown is necessary to fundamentally disrupt the chain of transmission across society,” Ramaphosa reportedly said.

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“The next few days are crucial. Without decisive action the number of people infected will rapidly increase,” he continued. “This is extremely dangerous for a population like ours, which has a a large number of people with suppressed immunity because of HIV and TB, and high levels of poverty and malnutrition.”

Non-essential businesses will close under the order, while residents will only be able to leave their homes “under strictly controlled circumstances," the president said.

South Africa becomes the third African nation to implement nationwide lockdown procedures in Africa due to the virus, following Tunisia and Rwanda. No deaths have yet been reported in the country.

The decision follows lockdowns implemented by the governments of Italy and some other European nations which have struggled to stop the surge of new cases being reported daily across the world. The total number of cases has risen globally past 377,000.

Desmond Tutu, a South African Anglican cleric and Nobel Peace Prize winner, praised the restrictions in a statement from his foundation obtained by the AP.

“It is time to maximize our efforts to prevent COVID-19 from rampaging through our poorer communities, many of which are overcrowded and without decent sanitation,” Tutu said, adding: “It is time for South Africans to reach across the inequity which divides us.”