Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a raft of unprecedented interventions to curb
the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa, including closing schools from
Wednesday, 18 March 2020, closing 35 ports of entry and imposing a travel
ban on foreign nationals from countries hardest hit by the Coronavirus
The measures were the
outcome of an emergency Cabinet meeting held on Sunday, 15 March 2020, in
In a live broadcast on television, radio and online platforms,
President Ramaphosa said the interventions were aimed at protecting South
African citizens and the economy and reducing the impact of what he said was
a medical emergency far graver than what has been experienced in over a
By Sunday, the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in the
country had risen to 61, an increase of 10 from the figure released earlier
in the day by the Department of Health. Globally, 162 000 people had tested
positive for Coronavirus and around 5 000 people had died.
¡§This number is expected to rise in the coming days and weeks.
Initially, it was people who had travelled into the country, especially from
Italy. It is concerning that we are now dealing with internal transmission
of the virus,¡¨ he said.
The situation, the President said, called for an extraordinary
response and no half measures.
During the Cabinet meeting, the virus was declared a national
disaster to enable government to have an integrated and coordinated disaster
mechanism that will focus on preventing and reducing the outbreak.
During this period, there should be limited contact between
people who may be infected and South Africans.
The travel ban was imposed from 18 March on foreign citizens
who came from Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, United States (US),
Germany, United Kingdom (UK) and China. ¡§We have cancelled visas to visitors
from those countries from today. Previously granted visas have been
revoked,¡¨ he said.
South Africans have been advised to refrain from all forms of
travel to or through the European Union, the US, UK and other high-risk
¡§This is effective immediately,¡¨ he said.
Additionally, any foreign national who has visited any of the
high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa. South African
citizens returning from these countries will be subjected to testing and
self-isolation or quarantine on return.
¡§Travellers from medium-risk countries such as Portugal, Hong
Kong and Singapore will be required to undergo high intensity screening. All
travellers who have entered South Africa from high-risk countries since
mid-February will be required to hand themselves over for testing.
¡§We will strengthen screening and testing measures at the OR
Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka international airports.¡¨
Of the country¡¦s 53 land ports of entry, the President
announced that 35 would be shut down as of Monday, 16 March 2020. Two of the
eight sea ports will be shut down too, for passengers and crew changing.
Effective immediately, all non-essential travel for all
spheres of government outside of the country is prohibited.
Government has also discouraged all non-essential domestic
travel, particularly by air, rail, taxis and bus.
¡§¡K It is essential therefore that we minimise the risk of the
spread of this virus by limiting contact among groups of people,¡¨ he said.
¡§While we appreciate the economic, religious and cultural
significance of social and community gatherings, the Coronavirus is spread
through contact between persons.¡¨
The President called for social distancing and said therefore
gatherings of more than 100 people would be prohibited.
¡§Mass celebrations of upcoming national days such as Human
Rights Day and other large government events will be cancelled. Where small
gatherings are unavoidable, organisers will need to put in place stringent
measures of prevention and control.
¡§Schools will be closed from Wednesday, 18 March, and will
remain closed until after the Easter Weekend,¡¨ the President said. To
compensate for this, mid-year school holidays will be shortened by a week.
Government is working closely with colleges, universities and
other public facilities such as Parliament, prisons, police stations and
military installations to intensify hygiene control.
Addressing reporters, the President also announced that visits
to correctional centres had been suspended for 30 days from Sunday.
Measures and responses around institutes of higher learning
were also announced.
President Ramaphosa also urged businesses to ensure necessary
measures to intensify hygiene control.
¡§We also call on the management of malls, entertainment
centres and other places frequented by large numbers of people to bolster
their hygiene control,¡¨ he said.
To further boost the country¡¦s health response, the President
said, government was strengthening its surveillance and testing systems and
was in the process of identifying isolation and quarantine sites in each
district and metro.
¡§We are calling for a change of behaviour among all South
Africans. We must minimise physical contact with other people and encourage
the elbow greeting rather than shaking hands,¡¨ the President said.
Because of the severity of this virus and its rapid spreading,
government will make funding available to capacitate the sectors dealing
with the national response to the Coronavirus outbreak.
President Ramaphosa announced that he would be
chairing a National Command Council that would include, among others,
members of the Inter-Ministerial Committee.
They will meet three times a week to coordinate all aspects of
an extraordinary emergency response.
The President said the pandemic was anticipated to have dire
effects on the country¡¦s already waning economy. A dramatic decline in
economic activity in major trading partners, a sudden drop in international
tourism and severe instability across all global markets have already been
¡§This will have a potentially severe impact on production, the
viability of businesses, job retention and job creation,¡¨ he said.
To soften the blow, Cabinet is in the process of finalising a
comprehensive package of interventions to mitigate the expected impact of
COVID-19 on the economy.
It is expected to consist of various fiscal and other measures
that will be concluded following consultations.
South Africans safe
The President said government¡¦s priority was to safeguard the
health and well-being of South Africans, minimise infections and to ensure
all those infected get proper treatment.
¡§While we are battling a contagious virus, perhaps the
greatest dangers to our country at this time are fear and ignorance,¡¨ he
Despite the extent of the threat that this disease presents,
the country should not be overwhelmed by fear and panic.
¡§This epidemic will pass. But it is up to us to determine how
long it will last, how damaging it will be and how long it will take our
economy and our country to recover.
¡§It is true that we are facing a grave emergency. But, if we
act together, if we act now, and if we act decisively, we will overcome it,¡¨
said President Ramaphosa.
¡V Source: SAnews.gov.za