South Africa braced for a nationwide military-patrolled lockdown on Thursday, joining other African countries imposing strict curfews and shutdowns in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus across the continent.
Some 57 million people will be restricted to their homes during South Africa’s three-week total lockdown which begins at midnight.
Kenya, Rwanda and Mali are some of the African countries that have imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus with the continent’s confirmed cases creeping towards 3,000 and more than 70 deaths so far.
Although Africa’s toll is far lower than in Europe, the United States and the Middle East, health experts say the world’s poorest continent is especially vulnerable and the figures likely fall far short of the reality.
Donning camouflage uniform complete with a cap, President Cyril Ramaphosa saw off soldiers before they deployed from a military base in Soweto township.
“I send you out to go and defend our people against coronavirus,” Ramaphosa said.
“This is unprecedented, not only in our democracy but also in the history of our country, that we will have a lockdown for 21 days to go out and wage war against an invisible enemy coronavirus,” he said.
During South Africa’s shutdown there will be no jogging, dog-walking or sale of alcohol across the country, which has so far the highest number of detected infections in sub-Saharan Africa at 927 cases, with Ramaphosa projecting it could reach 1,500 “within a few ddays.