Addressing South Africa on the coronavirus yesterday evening, president Ramaphosa announced that a national state of disaster has been declared.
The president indicated that, given the scale and the speed at which the virus is spreading, it is now clear that no country is immune or will be spared.
The national state of disaster was declared in terms of the Disaster Management Act.
The president voiced his concern that South Africa is now dealing with the internal transmission of the virus.
“This situation calls for an extraordinary response; there can be no half- measures.”
Currently, South Africa has 61 confirmed cases but government expects that number to rise.
According to the president, the situation calls for serious measures.
The president added that a disaster management mechanism is to be put in place and emergency response systems will be designed to mitigate the impact of the disease.
Earlier yesterday, cabinet decided to limit contact between persons who may be infected.
A travel ban on foreign nationals from high risk countries is to be imposed from 18 March 2020.
Visas from certain countries have been cancelled, previously granted visas to travelers from high-risk countries revoked and South African citizens are urged to refrain from travel through all high risk countries such as the European Union including Italy, United States, China, Iran, South Korea effective immediately.
Travel alerts will also be issued as and when required.
Government has also decided to set up a national command council to be headed by the president to meet 3 times a week to coordinate all aspects of the emergency response.
Screening and testing measures at international airports are to be strengthened.
Social distancing measures to be put in place include gatherings of more than 100 people to be prohibited, celebrations of large national days cancelled and schools to be closed from Wednesday 18 March until after the Easter weekend.
35 of 53 land ports are to be shut down and two seaports are to be closed.
All non-essential travel for all spheres of government outside the country to be prohibited with immediate effect.
Other measures include that any foreign national who has visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa, previously granted visas to travelers from high-risk countries revoked, South African citizens returning from high-risk countries will be subjected to testing and self-isolation or quarantine on return to South Africa, travelers from medium-risk countries – such as Portugal, Hong Kong and Singapore – will be required to undergo high intensity screening, 35 land ports to be shut down as from 16 March, all non-essential domestic travel by air, rail, taxis and bus to be discouraged, mid-year school holidays to be shortened by a week to compensate for the early closure, measures to combat the virus at universities and colleges to be announced soon, visits to all correctional centres suspended for 30 days with immediate effect, isolation and quarantine sites in each district and metro being identified and a mass communication campaign on good hygiene and effective prevention behavior to be undertaken.
The president also announced that cabinet is finalising a comprehensive package of interventions to mitigate the anticipated impact of COVID-19 on the local economy.
“This package, which will consist of various fiscal and other measures, will be concluded following consultation with business, labour and other relevant institutions.”
The president called on South Africans to stop spreading unverified and fake news about the virus.
He also assured the nation that South Africa has the expertise, means and knowledge to fight the disease. We also have partners, various countries and institutions, working with us. If we act swiftly we can limit the effects of the disease.