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South Africa: Today’s latest news and headlines, Thursday 26 March

Today’s latest news in South Africa, Thursday 26 March
Coronavirus continues its relentless spread through SA
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize reported on Wednesday morning that the country’s number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus jumped to 709 from 554 on Tuesday. This equates to an alarming increase of 28% in just 24 hours.

The latest national data shows that at 319, Gauteng has by far the highest number of COVID-19 cases out of all nine provinces, followed by the Western Cape with 183 and KwaZulu-Natal with 91.

And in a grim prediction, the health minister said the government South Africa News  is expecting a further increase in numbers as tests continue to trickle in.

According to Mkhize, the COVID-19 test only takes three hours, but it is the moving of specimens between testing centres and labs which maybe causing the delay.

With concerns over the high cost of the COVID-19 test, Mkhize added that discussions with the private sector are underway to lower costs. A test at a private hospital can set you back by a steep R1 400.

Laying down the lockdown law
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula announced that the South African Defence Force (SANDF) will assist the South African Police Service (SAPS) in the following ways during the period of the lockdown:

And don’t even think about throwing a “lockdown braai”… The sale of alcohol will also come to an abrupt end during the three-week period, according to Police Minister Bheki Cele.

“No movement of liquor from point A to point B. There shall be no movement. If you break these laws, you will be in prison for six months or be fined or both. 

A nation of “braaivleis, rugby and sunny skies” we definitely won’t be while under the strict confines of lockdown.

Read: Things you won’t be allowed to do at home during lockdown.

Sorry, Butch…No more ‘walkies’
You will, however, be allowed to walk your dog around the house. In his Wednesday briefing, Cele also said people won’t be allowed to exercise outside their homes during the three weeks, contradicting earlier comments by the health minister.

“There’s no need to move around. The cluster met, we had discussions and agreed that there will be no walking of dogs. It doesn’t enhance the call made by the president. If you really want to walk your dog, do it around your house – it ends there.

This is in stark contrast to other countries under lockdown where an hour of outdoor exercise is still allowed.

In the United Kingdom (UK) one form of exercise a day, such as a run, walk or cycle, can be done alone, with members of one’s household, or indeed with one’s faithful furry friend.

Another example is in Paris where pet owners are allowed to take their dogs for a walk or go for a run in their immediate neighbourhood, provided they keep a safe distance from others.

Essential transport services to continue
“Minibus taxis will be allowed to transport essential services workers and those allowed to make the necessary permitted movements,” Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Wednesday.

See the list of essential services workers here.

The minister said transport movements in this regard will be allowed Press Release Distribution Services In South Africa to operate from 05:00 to 09:00 and again from 16:00 to 20:00. 

Operators must put measures in place to adhere to social distancing in order to curb the spread of the virus.

“All minibus taxis must be sanitised after every trip. All taxi ranks must be sanitised at regular intervals. Where appropriate, government will provide assistance,” Mbalula said.

Metered taxis and e-hailing vehicles will also be allowed to transport essential services workers and those allowed to make the necessary permitted movements.

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