Covid-19: Ramaphosa announces ‘urgent, drastic’ measures

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation following a special cabinet meeting on matters relating to the COVID-19 epidemic. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP)
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation following a special cabinet meeting on matters relating to the COVID-19 epidemic. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a number of “drastic” measures – including limiting gatherings to 100 people – to deal with the Covid-19 coronavirus.

“This situation calls for an extraordinary response; there can be no half-measures,” Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation on Sunday night.

“We have decided to take urgent and drastic measures to manage the disease, protect the people of our country and reduce the impact of the virus on our society and on our economy.”

Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act.

“Any person who has visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa,” he said. “South African citizens returning from high-risk countries will be subjected to testing and self-isolation or quarantine on return to South Africa.”

He said that Cabinet had decided, after extensive discussions, to implement the following measures:

- A travel ban will be imposed on foreign nationals from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China as from March 18.

- Visas to visitors from those countries have been cancelled from today and previously granted visas are revoked.

- South African citizens are advised to refrain from all forms of travel to or through the European Union, United States, United Kingdom and other identified high-risk countries such as China, Iran and South Korea.

- 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 SA from high-risk countries since mid-February will be required to present themselves for testing.

- 35 of the country’s 53 land ports will be shut down from Monday, and 2 of the 8 sea ports will be closed for passengers and crew changes.

- Effective immediately, all non-essential travel for all spheres of government outside of the Republic is prohibited.

- Gatherings of more than 100 people will be prohibited.

- 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, 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 centres are suspended for 30 days with immediate effect.

The president further said that the government would strengthen its surveillance and testing systems.

“Capacity is being increased at designated hospitals in all provinces. We are also increasing the capacity of existing contact tracing processes,” he said.

Ramaphosa also announcd that decided a National Command Council, chaired by the president, would be established.

“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,” he said.

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