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Staff Reporter

South Africa has declared the coronavirus outbreak a national disaster, with 61 cases now confirmed in the country.

In a televised national address on Sunday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa also announced a host of measures including the closing of schools and some borders as well as the banning of large gatherings.

“We have now declared a national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act,” said Ramaphosa when he finally made the address after a delay of more than two hours as he was locked in consultation meetings.

“This is will enable us to have an integrated and coordinated disaster management mechanism that will focus on preventing and reducing the outbreak of this virus. We will also be able to set up emergency, rapid and effective response systems.”

Ramaphosa said given the scale and the speed at which the virus is spreading, it is now clear that no country is immune from the disease or will be spared its severe impact, hence the need for strict measures to limit the spread in the country.

The following are some of the measures proposed:

  • The government has banned entry into the country by foreign nationals from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, China, the UK, the US and Germany, among others.
  • All non-essential international and local travel should be avoided and travellers from high-risk countries will not be allowed to enter the country.
  • Public gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited.
  • Schools will be closed from 18 March 2020 until after the Easter weekend.
  • All of those who have visited high-risk countries in the past 14 days are requested to test for the virus.
  • Self-isolation is suggested for anyone who is not critically ill but presents with mild symptoms.
  • About 35 of the 53 land ports will be shut down and two of the sea ports will be closed.

“Never before in the history of our democracy has our country been confronted with such a severe situation,” said a concerned Ramaphosa, adding the country had 61 confirmed cases of the coronavirus from the 51 announced earlier in the morning.

He said what is more worrying now is that initially it was people who had travelled out of the country, especially from Italy, who had positively tested for the virus but South Africa is now dealing with internal transmissions.

Ministers whose departments are directly impacted by the measures announced by the president are expected to hold a joint media briefing on Monday at 10am to elaborate on the implementation of the measures.

 

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