'Unprecedented' measures taken to battle coronavirus
Cape Town – As the Covid-19 death toll climbed to three, with more than 1 300 people infected in the country yesterday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a new wave of intensified measures, including door-to-door screening and testing.
“We are now entering a new phase in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic,” Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation last night.
“In the coming days, government will be rolling out a screening, testing, tracing and medical management programme on a huge scale.
"Around 10 000 field workers will be visiting homes in villages, towns and cities to screen residents for Covid-19 symptoms. People with symptoms will be referred to local clinics or mobile clinics for testing.”
People who are infected with coronavirus, but who have no or moderate symptoms will remain in isolation at home or at a facility provided by the government. Those with severe symptoms will be transferred to hospitals.
Ramaphosa said using mobile technology, an extensive tracing system would be rapidly deployed to trace those who have been in contact with confirmed coronavirus cases and to monitor the geographical location of new cases in real time.
“This drive is far-reaching, it is intensive and it is unprecedented in scale,” he said, reiterating his call to South Africans to stay home.
So far 1 326 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in South Africa.
“The next 17 days will be difficult for everyone. Parents are worried about the safety of their children. Small business owners and informal traders are losing much or all of their income.
"Workers are worried about their jobs. The elderly and the frail need people to care for them. Some of those who live on the streets are without shelter or food. All of us are experiencing great hardship and great anxiety at this time.
“That is why we are taking various actions to support businesses in distress, assist workers whose jobs are threatened and provide funding to small businesses. We are providing shelter to people who are homeless.
“We are particularly concerned about the impact of the lockdown on the self-employed and on informal businesses. We are urgently developing additional measures to provide relief to them during this difficult time,” Ramaphosa said.
South Africans had, for the most part, responded responsibly to the lockdown by staying at home, observing the regulations and exercising the greatest of care, he said.
“I would like to thank the people of South Africa for acting in a disciplined manner through this very difficult period.
“We are, however, concerned about those who have not yet appreciated the seriousness of this disease. Some people may think this disease is something that doesn't concern them and will never affect them.
"It infects the rich and the poor, the young and the old, black and white, those who live in the cities and those in the villages. Let us not make the mistake of thinking this is somebody else’s problem.”
As the country went into lockdown, rating agency Moody’s announced it had downgraded South Africa to a sub-investment grade, but this would not diminish the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Ramaphosa said.
“This will significantly increase the cost of borrowing to fund government spending and will have a negative impact on the economy. We are pushing ahead to implement the necessary health interventions and economic and social measures to contain the spread of the disease and alleviate its effects on our people.”