Highlights from the President’s speech:
On the economy:
My fellow South Africans, in addition to the impact that this pandemic will have on health and wellbeing of our people, and the impact it will have on the day-to-day life of our society, COVID-19 will also have a significant and potentially lasting impact on our economy.
Cabinet is therefore in the process of finalising a comprehensive package of interventions to mitigate the expected impact of COVID-19 on our economy.
This package, which will consist of various fiscal and other measures, will be concluded following consultation with business, labour and other relevant institutions.
On managing the outbreak:
The World Health Organisation has declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global pandemic.
We have now declared a national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act. This will enable us to have an integrated and coordinated disaster management mechanism that will focus on preventing and reducing the outbreak of this virus.
Following an extensive analysis of the progression of the disease worldwide and in South Africa, Cabinet has decided on the following measures:
Firstly, to limit contact between persons who may be infected and South African citizens.
We are imposing a travel ban 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 18 March 2020.
We have cancelled visas to visitors from those countries from today and previously granted visas are hereby 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.
This is effective immediately.
Government will continue to regularly issue travel alerts referring to specific cities, countries or regions as the situation evolves based on the risk level.
Any foreign national who has visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa.
South African citizens returning from high-risk countries will be subjected to testing and self-isolation or quarantine on return to South Africa.
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 present themselves for testing.
We will strengthen surveillance, screening and testing measures at OR Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka International Airports South Africa has 72 ports of entry in the country which are land, sea and air ports.
Of the 53 land ports, 35 will be shut down with effect from Monday 16 March.
Two 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. We further discourage all non-essential domestic travel, particularly by air, rail, taxis and bus.
Secondly, it is essential therefore that we minimise the risk of the spread of this virus by limiting contact amongst groups of people.
Therefore to encourage social distancing Cabinet has decided on these additional measures:
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.
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.
To compensate, the 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.
Visits to all correctional centres are suspend for 30 days with immediate effect.
Government is aware of the confirmed case of a student who has tested positive for the coronavirus at Wits University.
Those who have been in contact with the student will be quarantined.
The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation is consulting with Vice Chancellors of universities and colleges across the country and will soon be announcing measures in this regard.
We call on all businesses including mining, retail, banking, farming to ensure that they take all 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.
Thirdly, to further strengthen our health response: Government is strengthening its surveillance and testing systems.
We are in process of identifying isolation and quarantine sites in each district and metro.
Capacity is being increased at designated hospitals in all provinces.
We are also increasing the capacity of existing contact tracing processes.
We are partnering with the private sector to set up a national tracking, tracing and monitoring system of all people infected with the coronavirus and those they have been in contact with.
We are undertaking a mass communication campaign on good hygiene and effective prevention behaviour.
Therefore, we are calling on everyone to:
• Wash their hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitisers for at least 20 seconds;
• Cover their nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or flexed elbow;
• Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.
We must minimise physical contact with other people, and, encourage the elbow greeting rather than shaking hands.
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.
Since the outbreak of this pandemic, our government’s response has been led by an Inter-Ministerial Committee, chaired by the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize.
We congratulate them on the outstanding work they have done – together with their able support teams – to steer our country through this challenging and un-certain period.
As part of the intensification of this effort, we have decided to establish a National Command Council chaired by the President.
This Command Council will include, amongst others, members of the Inter- Ministerial Committee and will meet three times a week, to coordinate all aspects of our extraordinary emergency response.