President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation around the efforts the government will be undertaking to combat the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in SA. Here’s what you need to know.
President Ramaphosa apologised for the late start and said that they had to conduct key stakeholder consultations before addressing the public: “Fellow South Africans, I am addressing you this evening on a matter of great national importance. The world is facing a medical emergency far graver than what we have experienced in over a century”.
He said that as of 15 March, South Africa has 61 confirmed cases of people infected with the virus, and this number is expected to rise in the coming days and weeks.
“Initially, it was people who had travelled out of the country, especially from Italy, who had positively tested for the virus. It is concerning that we are now dealing with the internal transmission of the virus,” said the President.
Cabinet held a special meeting on Sunday, 15 March and decided to take urgent and drastic measures to manage the disease, protect the people of South Africa and reduce the impact of the virus on society and the economy.
“We have now declared a national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act,” he said.
This will enable the government to have an integrated and coordinated disaster management mechanism that will focus on preventing and reducing the outbreak of the virus. “We will also be able to set up emergency, rapid and effective response systems,” added President Ramaphosa.
Here are the measures that have been taken:
A travel ban from 18 March
Any person who has visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa. The government will continue to regularly issue travel alerts referring to specific cities, countries or regions as the situation evolves based on the risk level. Travellers from medium-risk countries – such as Portugal, Hong Kong and Singapore – will be required to undergo high-intensity screening.
High-intensity screening at major airports
South African citizens at major airports in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban returning from high-risk countries will be subjected to testing and self-isolation or quarantine on their return to South Africa.
Ports of entry in the country will shut down
South Africa has 72 ports of entry in the country which are land, sea and airports. Of the 53 land ports, 35 will be shut down with effect from Monday, 16 March. Two of the eight seaports will be closed for passengers and crew changes.
Isolation and Quarantine sites to be set-up
In addition to the hospitals set-up to deal with the Coronavirus, the government will be setting up isolation and quarantine sites in all districts and metros.
Air, rail, taxis, busses travel ban
“Effective immediately, all non-essential travel for all spheres of government outside of the Republic is prohibited. We further discourage all non-essential domestic travel, particularly by air, rail, taxis and bus,” said the President.
Gatherings of more than 100 prohibited
It is essential for the country to minimize the risk of the spread of this virus by limiting contact amongst groups of people. The government prohibits gatherings of more than 100 people. They have also encouraged religious houses, funeral parlours and other essential parts of society to co-operate with the government to limit these gatherings. Where small gatherings are unavoidable, organisers will need to put in place stringent measures of prevention and control.
Large government gatherings and national days cancelled
“While we appreciate the economic, religious, and cultural significance of social and community gatherings, the Coronavirus is spread through contact between persons,” said President Ramaphosa. Mass celebrations of upcoming national days such as Human Rights Day and other large government events will be cancelled.
Schools will be closed from WEDNESDAY 18 March until Easter weekend
Schools will be closed from Wednesday, 18 March, and will remain closed until after the Easter weekend. To compensate, the mid-year school holidays will be shortened by a week.
Visits to all correctional services suspended for 30 days
Visits to all correctional centres are suspended for 30 days with immediate effect.
Mining, retail, banking, farming to intensify hygiene control
Government is working with colleges, universities and other public facilities such as Parliament, prisons, police stations and military installations to intensify hygiene control. They have also called for shopping malls, entertainment centres and other public retail spaces to increase hygiene control.