President Cyril Ramaphosa this evening (23 April) addressed the nation on the measures government will continue to implement in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The address follows a meeting of the National Command Council held today and consultations with several stakeholders including leaders of political parties represented in parliament.
During his address, Ramaphosa said that there is clear evidence that the lockdown is working and that it has slowed down the progression of the pandemic in the country. The World Health Organisation commended South Africa for acting swiftly.
He added that while a lockdown is needed to contain the spread of the virus, it cannot be sustained indefinitely. “We have accordingly decided that beyond 30 April, we should begin a gradual and phased recovery of economic activity. We will implant what we call a risk-adjusted strategy which we take a deliberate and cautious approach to the easing of current lockdown restrictions.
“We have decided on this approach because there is still much that is unknown about the rate and manner of the spread.”
Scientists have advised that an abrupt and uncontrolled lift of restrictions could cause a massive resurgence in infections. “We cannot take action today that we would deeply regret tomorrow. We must avoid a rushed re-opening which could increase the spread and force another hard lockdown.
“We have developed an approach which determines the measures we should have in place based on the direction of the pandemic in the country.”
There will be five coronavirus levels:
Level 5: Drastic measures are required to contain spread of virus
Level 4: Some activity can be allowed to resume subject to extreme precautions required to limit community transmission and outbreaks
Level 3: Easing of some restrictions including on some work and social activities
Level 2: Further easing of restrictions but maintenance of physical distancing and restrictions on some leisure and social activities
Level 1: Most normal activity can resume with precautions and health guidelines followed at all times
Photo: @PresidencyZA Twitter account
There will be a national level as well as levels for each province and district and metro in the country. “South Africa is currently at Level 5 and the National Coronavirus Command Council will determine the level based on assessment of the infection rate and capacity of the health system to provide care for those who need it.”
Ministers will provide a detailed description of the classification of industries and how each is affected at each level. “We will give all industry bodies an opportunity to consider these details and should they wish to make submissions before new regulations are gazetted, they are free to do so.”
Every business will have to adhere to detailed health and safety precautions. Plans will have to be put in place for disease surveillance. All businesses permitted to resume will have to do so in a phased manner. These are as follows:
They will have to prepare their workplace for a return to operations
Return of workforce in batches of no more than one-third of the workforce
In some cases, a sector will not be able to return to full production during Level 4
Business will be encouraged to adopt a work-from-home strategy where possible
All staff who can work remotely must be allowed to do so.
“As we gradually ease restrictions, it is necessary that many of the measures in place to contain the spread of the virus remain in place.”
When the country moves to Level 4 on 1 May the following will happen:
Borders will remain closed to international travel except for the repatriation of South African nationals and foreign citizens
No travel will be allowed between provinces except for transportation of goods and exceptional circumstances such as funerals
Public transport will continue to operate with limitations on the number of passengers and stringent hygiene requirements, including that all passengers must wear a face mask
The public is encouraged to stay at home, other than for essential personal movement, doing essential work and work in sectors that are under the rolled opening
People can exercise under strict public health conditions that will be spelt out.
All gatherings apart from funerals and for work will be prohibited
Those who are elderly or with underlying conditions must remain at home and take additional precautions to isolate themselves
The sale of cigarettes will be permitted
Range of goods that may be sold will be incorporated to include certain additional categories, which will be detailed by relevant ministers
Several restrictions will remain in place regardless of the level of alert for as long as the risk of transmission is present. Bars and shebeens will remain closed, conference and convention centres and entertainment venue, cinemas, theatres will remain closed. Concerts, sporting events and religious and cultural and social gatherings will not be allowed until it is deemed safe.
Even as we begin to ease some of the lockdown measures, restrictions on large and high-risk gatherings will remain in place to ensure the rate of coronavirus infections does not increase too rapidly. #COVID19#CoronaVirusSA
Six municipalities including Johannesburg, Ekhuruleni, Cape Town, Buffalo City, Ethekweni and Mangaung account for 75 per cent of coronavirus cases. “It is therefore essential that we do everything within our means to restrict the movement of people… Ultimately it is our own actions as individuals that will determine how quickly the virus spreads.Presidency | South Africa ✔@PresidencyZA
Because Covid-19 confirmed case numbers & rates of infection differ across the country, alert levels will be determined at the provincial, and in some cases, the district level once the full nationwide lockdown ends. #COVID19#CoronaVirusSA
“If we all adhere to instructions and follow pubic health guidelines we will keep the virus under control and we’ll not need to reinstate the most drastic measures.”
By doing a few simple things the spread of the virus can be prevented. These include:
Washing hands with soap and water
Keeping a distance of at least one metre from another person
Try not to touch your mouth, nose and eye
Cover your mouth and nose with a bent elbow when you cough and sneeze
Wear a face mask when you leave home.
Ramaphose pays tribute to doctors, nurses, scientists and field workers who are leading the public health response as well as those that are providing essential services. He said that the government is substantially and rapidly increase rapid health response.
Over 70 000 defence force personnel have been deployed to help with various coronavirus efforts. The defence force will continue to assist the police as well as provide assistance in other essential areas such as the provision of water supply, infrastructure maintenance and health services.
“There is no person who does not want to return to work and normal life, there is no company that does not want to reopen its doors for normal economic activity. There is no student who does not want to return to their classrooms or studies.
“We are all called upon at some point in our lives to make great sacrifices for our own future and for the future of others. There are times when we must endure hardship and difficulty so that we can enjoy freedom and prosperity into the future. During the past five weeks, we have demonstrated to the entire nation what we can achieve with courage, determination and solidarity, we must not give up now. I’m asking you to stay strong and focused. I’m asking you to remain united.”