Strict vigilance is in place to compel enforcement of the 21 days national lockdown by South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa.
There will be no taxis, buses or trains operating during the 21 -day coronavirus nation-wide lockdown which starts at midnight on Thursday.
However, the government is considering allowing taxis, including e-hailing drivers, to operate for a couple of hours during the peak morning time and again in the afternoon.
This will, however, only be for those declared essential workers employed at supermarkets that will be operational during the lockdown, those in the health sector, the media and others.
This is according to transport minister Fikile Mbalula who on Wednesday morning, was speaking on Radio 702 the day before the nation-wide lockdown will be implemented.
“A lockdown is a lockdown, they [taxis, trains and buses] will not be operating and there will be special [arrangements] catering for public transport which [we] will deal with the details later on in terms of taxis,” Mbalula said.
“We are looking at allocating time for the operation of taxis in the morning peak and in the afternoon, and during the day [there will be] a lockdown because a lockdown is a lockdown. Workers who are classified as essential will be permitted to get to work. We’ll cater for them. Special catering for them, in the morning peak and the afternoon, in terms of public transport caters for them.”
Their employers will still be expected to apply for a permit that will allow them to be on the roads.
“All employers will be expected to generate permits for special workers. If you are for instance working in a supermarket, Pick ‘n Pay will have to produce a permit for its workers that you are permitted to be working on this day in terms of the regulation and the lockdown and that will happen also for the media,” Mbalula said.
The lockdown will be implemented from Thursday midnight as the country battles to stop the spread of Covid-19 that has to date affected at least 709 South Africas.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize said that the decision to shut down public transport operations would assist the country greatly in the long run as this was one area where the virus could spread.
He said they were aware that people were planning on migrating back to their hometowns and that the military, who would be deployed on the roads during the lockdown, would decide how such migration is handled.
“We are going to make an attempt at reducing numbers of people who are to go out into the various places, into the various provinces. But we do want to discourage people from again making huge migration of people because it’s those numbers of people which are of concern to us but what is helpful is that when you stop the taxis and you stop the trains, that means that the numbers of people who are travelling is going to be less so the mixing is going to be reduced,” Mkhize said.
“But the restriction is going to be put on the roads so that we try and allow only people who are supporting the essential services should be on the road.”
He said that a commute would however still be available for the sick as well those who want to buy food. It was not immediately clear if they would only be limited to the morning and afternoon timelines.