Farmers, it’s official. You are not on lockdown. Food For Mzansi can confirm that farming and agricultural processing are considered an essential service, and therefore exempted from the 21-day lockdown announced last night by Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa to try and curb the deadly spread of the coronavirus.
The nationwide lockdown takes effect on Thursday, 26 March 2020 at midnight, ending on Thursday, 16 April 2020. All South Africans – with the exception of those in essential services – will have to stay home as Covid-19 infections continue to surge and threaten to spiral out of control.
The Mzansi lockdown comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the global spread of the virus was accelerating. Covid-19 is a new disease and scientists are still learning how it spreads, while health services around the world are battling with the severity of illness it causes.
At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments available. A lockdown is therefore considered the best way to break the chain of transmission – giving vulnerable populations a fighting chance of surviving the pandemic.
“Immediate, swift and extraordinary action is required if we are to prevent a human catastrophe of enormous proportions,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation. “While this measure will have a considerable impact on people’s livelihoods, on the life of our society and our economy, the human cost of delaying this action would be far greater.”
Agri-leaders have welcomed the lockdown, which will be enforced by the army and the police. Agri SA executive director Omri van Zyl said, “We have to flatten the curve to stop a large-scale catastrophe in South Africa. It remains imperative that essential services remain intact. Agriculture is one of these and the production of food and food supplies must ensure that we keep our food security status intact and that we nourish our people.
Agri SA president Pierre Vercueil said, “The farmers of South Africa will support our people and our country in these times of need and turbulence.”
Farmers must also keep their workers informed of the latest developments around the Covid-19 pandemic and to curb the spread of the disease, urged Louis Meintjies, the president of TLU SA.
Meintjies said, “We are delighted that the president realises the critical role of the commercial farmer in ensuring food security and delivery. It is, however, important to include the entire agricultural value chain here. The farmer cannot deliver products to distribution points if spare parts and fuel is not available.”
Categories exempted from lockdown
Ramaphosa announced that only certain categories of people will be exempted from the strict lockdown. Besides agriculture, it also includes health workers in the public and private sectors, emergency personnel, those in security services – such as the police, traffic officers, military medical personnel, soldiers – and other persons necessary to curb the pandemic.
The president described the agricultural sector as those involved in the production, distribution and supply of food and basic goods. Essential banking services, the maintenance of power, water and telecommunications services, laboratory services, and the provision of medical and hygiene products are also exempted from the lockdown.
Individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances, such as to seek medical care, buy food, medicine and other supplies or collect a social grant. All shops and businesses will be closed, except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services, including the JSE, supermarkets, petrol stations and health care providers.