South Africans flocked to retail stores to buy essential items on Tuesday (24 March), ahead of the planned lockdown ordered by president Cyril Ramaphosa.

President Ramaphosa ordered a 21-day lockdown with severe restrictions on travel and movement – beginning midnight on Thursday – to combat the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in the country.

In South Africa, the number of confirmed cases has increased dramatically in just eight days from 61 cases to 554 cases.

Under the president’s orders – measures included in the lockdown include:

  • All South Africans will have to stay at home.
  • Exempted: health workers in public and private health sectors; emergency personnel; security services such as police and soldiers; those involved in the production and supply of food and basic goods; those working in essential services.
  • People will only be able to leave their homes to buy food, visit the pharmacy, or seek medical care; or to collect a social grant.
  • Shelters for homeless people will be identified, as well as quarantine areas for those who cannot self-isolate at home.
  • All businesses will close – only medical facilities pharmacies, laboratories, petrol stations and food stores will remain open;
  • Essential transport services will also continue.

President Ramaphosa warned that regulations have been put in place to prohibit unjustified price hikes, to ensure shops maintain adequate stocks of basic goods and to prevent people from ‘panic buying’.

“It is important for all South Africans to understand that the supply of goods remains continuous and supply chains remain intact. Government has had discussions with manufacturers and distributors of basic necessities, who have indicated that there will be a continuous supply of these goods. There is therefore no need for stockpiling of any items,” the president stressed.

A number of images and video footage has been uploaded onto social media showing long queues to get into retail stores.

Makro has moved to limit the number of units per customer, including toilet paper, hand sanitiser, wet wipes and numerous other disinfectants.

The entrance into the Makro in Pretoria East is being controlled by security guards, allowing a small group of people to enter at a time. The queue keep growing as people prepare to panic buy ahead of the lockdown (@AlexMitchley)

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One shopper told BusinessTech that numerous shelves in shops in Fourways are empty. She said that midday shopping on Tuesday, felt like Saturday morning after payday.

Dear South Africa.
Please can you calm down! @PresidencyZA was very clear last night announcing the
Petrol stations
Health care providers
These WILL STAY OPEN during the shutdown period.

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