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Govt orders MTN, Vodacom to close stores

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Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, minister of communications and digital technologies.
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, minister of communications and digital technologies.

Government has reversed its earlier decision that stores operated by telcos will remain open for the duration of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Mobile operators that were classified as essential services for the period have been ordered to close shop to help reduce exposure of employees to the deadly virus that has wreaked havoc across the world.

Earlier this week, leading telcos, MTN and Vodacom, told ITWeb they will be open as per the government directive.

The telcos had vowed to adhere to strict hygiene protocols in stores and promised to supplement this with additional actions, including the clearing of non-essential items (such as phones on display) to limit the number of items than can be touched in the store.

But, yesterday, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, minister of communications and digital technologies, said that decision had been reversed.

In a letter to MTN SA CEO Godfrey Motsa, the minister said: “Reference is made to your undated letter received on 30 March 2020, wherein you requested the minister of communications and digital technologies to clarify details of the essential services classification of telecommunications services.

“Please be informed the Disaster Management National Command Centre (NCC) deliberated on this matter and decided that cellular shops in malls and shopping centres are to be closed to ensure more employees remain at home during the lockdown period to curb the spread of COVID-19.”

However, she said: “Call centres must continue to operate during the lockdown period”.

Furthermore, Ndabeni-Abrahams advised that her department is reviewing the electronic communications, postal services and broadcasting directions gazetted on 26 March “to provide clarity on matters raised by MTN and other industry players, which may result in amendments to the directions issued, subject to the approval of the NCC”.

The minister also noted the maintenance of home fibre is one of the matters that will be considered.

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