South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, in addressing the nation on Sunday, has declared a National State of Disaster, in terms of the Disaster Management Act, amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Ramaphosa says the cabinet has decided to enforce travel bans on foreign nationals from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, Spain, South Korea, the United States, UK, Germany and China.
This ban is effective from 18 March 2020.
South Africa has 61 confirmed cases as of the COVID-19 which broke out in China in November 2019. The virus has since spread to different countries globally.
Ramaphosa also announced that South African citizens that have visited high-risk countries in the last 20 days will undergo heavy testing and will be required to self-isolate for 20 days. He further urged South Africans to limit contact with high-risk countries.
Visas to be revoked
Ramaphosa says that 45 of the country’s 72 ports of entries will also be shut down.
Cabinet has also decided to revoke visas of foreign nationals from high risk countries and that South Africa will not be issuing visas to foreigners from those countries.
Foreign nationals who have visited high risk countries in the last 20 days will also be denied visas.
Ramaphosa has also encouraged South Africans to practice social distancing. Group gatherings of more than 100 people have been banned. Public celebrations such as the commemoration of public holidays have also been banned and President Ramaphosa has urged citizens organising private gatherings to exercise caution.
Schools to close
Schools will be closed from Wednesday 18 March and will reopen after the Easter holidays. Schooling will be extended with an extra week in the second term to catch-up on time lost due to the pandemic.
Visits to Correctional Services centres have also been banned for 30 days.
Ramaphosa has urged business owners and mall management to intensify all necessary measures to intensify hygiene control. He further says that government will be embarking on a massive hygiene campaign.
Ramaphosa says government will be strengthening its surveillance and tracking systems of the virus.
“We are in the process of identifying isolation and quarantine sites in each district and metro. Capacity is being increased in at designated hospitals in all provinces. We are also increasing the capacity of existing contact tracing processes.”
The health ministry will be partnering with the private health sector to set up a national tracking, tracing and monitoring system of all people infected with COVID-19. Government will also make funds available to capacitate the sectors dealing with the national response to the virus.
Limitation of physical contact
People have also been encouraged to limit physical contact such as hugs and handshakes. The President has encouraged people to rather opt for the shoulder greeting.
Cabinet will also establish a National Command Council, chaired by him, to co-ordinate emergency response to the virus.
“This National Command Council will include among others members of the Inter-Ministerial Committee and will meet three times a week to co-ordinate all aspects of our extraordinary emergency response.”
A team of ministers will brief the media on government interventions in various sectors of the departmental portfolios on Monday, 16 March at the Dirco Media Centre in Rietondale, Pretoria.