10 key questions about the Covid-19 lockdown answered

People will still be allowed to shop during the lockdown - one at a time, keeping a safe social distance.
People will still be allowed to shop during the lockdown - one at a time, keeping a safe social distance.
Image: Esa Alexander

Midnight on Thursday will mark the start of a new period of uncertainty as South Africans adapt to life under a nationwide lockdown in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. We answer 10 key questions that are on most people's minds at the moment.

1. What proof must I produce to show I am on my way to buy groceries?

Individuals must stay at home unless they are buying groceries or petrol, getting social grants, banking or seeking medical care, which are allowed during lockdown.

As to what exactly you need to have on you isn't immediately clear.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula said that public transport - including e-hailing services - will be available to take people shopping or to fulfil other essential services.

"All people are catered for in terms of public transport - prioritising essential services, that takes into consideration people needing to go to hospitals, to buy groceries and so on. You will be carted for during 5am and 9am, and again between 4pm and 8pm.

"The lockdown seeks to limit unnecessary movement so that also has an impact on transport because you cannot commute like business as usual," he said.

Minister of trade and industry Ebrahim Patel said: “We will be talking to supermarkets about opening early and closing early and ... similar arrangements with spaza shops. We want to encourage people to shop at local shops.”

2. What proof do police or army that I have a valid reason to be out during lockdown? 

You will need a permit to move around without restrictions and these will be given only to people involved in essential services — there are 28 categories listed.

Companies will issue the permit (annexure C of the regulations). These will be granted only to people who comply with the list published by the government, said Patel.

3. Can I drive my minor child to be with his mother or father if we share joint custody?

At this stage it's not quite clear, but the government has encouraged parents to try not move their children around.

Minister of social development Lindiwe Zulu said: “We still have to deal with custody/visitation rights ... Some will say 21 days is a long time. The movement of the children is going to be difficult, but we know what it is if parents want to see their children, they have custody rights.”

She said later that the department still needed to work out the directives based on the lockdown regulations.

"We wish that parents could really understand the extraordinary time that need extraordinary action at this point in time. This is a sensitive matter - parents would like to have their children going back and forth ... but it will be an appeal from ourselves that parents will have to really think very carefully about themselves and their children and the exposure of the children [to the virus].

"If the parents have joint parental rights, they also have joint parental responsibility. and maybe many of them will take the decision about where the child will stay. We're talking about 21 days - not a lifetime where one parent will have an advantage over another," said Zulu.

4. Can I visit elderly relatives who need help?

No visiting will be allowed by family under lockdown, but old-age homes will get the food and support they need along with children’s homes and youth homes, the social cluster promises. Social workers will be listed under essential services, as will others working in social services.

5. Will I be able to volunteer to help with providing meals or services to those in need?

The “production, distribution and supply of food” are listed as essential services, as is the “relief of distress”, so it is possible that volunteers will be given exceptional status and a permit to assist those in need.

6. Can I walk my dog, or go for a jog?

No! Police minister Bheki Cele made it clear early on Wednesday evening that “no dogs will be walked” during the lockdown.

This restriction contradicts the concession early Wednesday by health minister Zweli Mkhize, who told SABC television that dog-walking and short jogs should be no problem, provided people kept their distance.

Mkhize spoke after Cele at the security cluster briefing to clarify that no jog would be allowed either, adding that this issue has become a distraction.

7. Can I get electrician or plumber if emergency leak or fault?

Yes, this should be possible, given that the maintenance of power, water and telecommunications are listed as essential services.

8. Will any public places open to the public?

No, everywhere is closed: shopping malls (except grocery stores and pharmacies), parks, beaches, swimming pools, markets, nightclubs, casinos, taverns, shebeens and any other place where people gather are closed and off limits.

9. Will taxi ranks, bus and train stations be open?

No, they will all be shutdown, but Uber will be permitted to operate.

10. What happens if I break the rules during lockdown - for example, by driving on the freeway?

You could be punished with a fine or up to one month in prison on serious charges, including attempted murder.

A Ladysmith salon owner who continued to work after testing positive for coronavirus, ignoring the order to self-quarantine, has been charged with attempted murder. Two more have been charged with attempted murder in KwaZulu-Natal for moving around when they were told not to do this, said Mkhize.

“If we ask you to quarantine yourself, you will be forced. The same if you are asked to divulge all the people you were with.

“There are a lot of vulnerable people out there. The elderly are very vulnerable. A lot of people are immuno-suppressed,” added Mkhize, urging everyone to stop their exposure to the virus in order to save lives.