Good news for SA’s runners facing virus lockdown

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize had some good news for runners, walkers and dog owners as the nation heads into a three-week lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus: they will still be allowed outside to exercise.

“There shouldn’t be a problem with that,” Mkhize said in an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corp. on Wednesday. “We want to avoid large numbers of people moving” around and coming into contact with each other, he said.

With many sporting events in South Africa and around the globe cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic, the talking point on local runners forums is whether the annual Comrades Marathon will go ahead on June 14. With 27 500 entries for this year’s event, the race over 90 kilometres, or 56 miles, is the world’s biggest ultra marathon. The organisers said they will make a final decision on April 17.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on March 23 that the lockdown will come into effect at midnight on Thursday. He said people will only be allowed to leave their homes to go shopping, collect welfare grants and seek medical care — unless they provided an essential service.

About 16 million people commute daily on congested trains and minibus taxis, and the government wants to reduce their risk of contracting the coronavirus and transmitting it.

The number of confirmed infections in South Africa rose 28% to 709 by late Tuesday, though there haven’t been any fatalities. Five people have recovered and most others are doing well, with just two in intensive care.

The country is in the very early stages of the pandemic and an increase in infections is expected, according to Mkhize. More than 12 000 tests have been conducted so far, and efforts to do more have been constrained by a lack of kits but the problem should ease by next week, he said.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.