South Africa, Africa’s most industrialized economy and a nation of 57 million people, will go into a nationwide lockdown for 21 days starting Thursday. The aim is to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, the president said Monday.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the measures in response to the increase of COVID-19 cases to 402.
South Africa will be the third country in Africa to close down all but essential economic activity, after Rwanda and Tunisia.
South Africa’s coronavirus cases jumped by 47% on Monday from the day before with 128 new cases, increasing worries of exponential growth and making it the country with the most cases in Africa, taking over from Egypt, the AP reports.
More than half of South Africa’s total cases are in Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, the country’s largest city with 5.7 million people.
South Africa has not registered a known death from the new virus. Officials have said the majority of people infected were travelers from Europe and other countries, although the number of cases that are locally transmitted is rising.
South Africa’s crowded working-class residential areas and packed commuter trains and minivan taxis are expected to contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
Ramaphosa said the lockdown would be enforced by police and the military starting at midnight Thursday. Military convoys have already deployed across Johannesburg. “We need to urgently and dramatically escalate our response,” he said in an address to the nation.