In his speech on Sunday, 15 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the number of people infected with the coronavirus is expected to rise in the coming days and weeks.
South Africa currently has 62 confirmed cases of people infected with the virus.
“This situation calls for an extraordinary response; there can be no half measures,” Ramaphosa said, adding that a national state of disaster in the country had been declared.
Ramaphosa also said government had decided to take urgent and drastic measures to manage the disease, to protect the people of South Africa and to mitigate the impact of the virus on society and on the economy.
The measures announced by the President include the following:
• Gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited. Mass celebrations or events are being cancelled. Where small gatherings are unavoidable, organisers will need to put in place stringent measures of prevention and control.
• The President declared a state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act, No 57 of 2002.
• The government imposed a prohibition on travelling from a number of countries, including Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the USA, the United Kingdom and China. The travel ban on these countries will be effective from 18 March 2020. Domestic travelling also should be limited to urgent and essential purposes.
• Businesses are requested to take measures to enhance control over hygiene.
• Surveillance and testing systems at hospitals are being strengthened.
• A co-operation agreement with the private sector is being entered into to develop a tracing and monitoring system for all persons affected by the coronavirus.
• Schools will be closed from Wednesday 18 March until after the Easter weekend. Schools will reopen on 14 April 2020.
• Government will co-operate with universities, colleges etc to increase hygiene and take other appropriate measures.
• A package is being compiled to minimise the economic impact of the disease.
• The economic impact of the disease has to be determined. A national command council to be chaired by the President is being established and will meet three times a week to co-ordinate reactions to the pandemic.
• Every person is called upon to take personal measures such as personal hygiene, elbow greeting, etc.
• South Africa has 72 ports of entry, which are land, sea and air ports. Of the 53 land points of entry, 35 will be closed. Two of the eight sea ports will be closed for passengers and crew.
• Individuals travelling from medium-risk countries such as Portugal, Hong Kong and Singapore will be required to undergo high-intensity screening.
• All travellers entering South Africa since middle February from high-risk countries will have to undergo coronavirus testing.
• Surveillance, screening and testing measures at OR Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka International Airports will be strengthened.
• All non-essential travel for all spheres of government outside the Republic is prohibited with immediate effect. All non-essential domestic travel, particularly by air, rail, taxi and bus, is discouraged.
According to statistics of the World Health Organisation, more than 167 500 people have been infected and more than 6 600 people have died from the coronavirus worldwide. (These statistics were released by the World Health Organisation on 16 March 2020.)
It is extremely important for every community to co-operate with regard to their personal health and safety as well as the health and safety of the community and the country as a whole.
Responsible behaviour by all South Africans will establish a safer environment and contribute towards minimising the spread of the coronavirus.
Solidarity will soon be launching a Corona Crisis Centre. More information on the centre will be made available later.
“Solidarity is tackling this crisis thoroughly and resolutely and we are going to do everything in our power to protect the community. Do not underestimate the coronavirus. The virus and measures to combat it are going to change our lives drastically. Be sure to do everything that is prescribed. Avoid public gatherings, cancel travel arrangements, avoid physical contact. Regularly talk to your family and be informed – information creates certainty. Wash your hands for more than 20 seconds. It may sound simple, but it is extremely important.” – Dirk Hermann, chief executive of Solidarity.