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Coronavirus in SA: What the national disaster declaration means

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Published Mar 16, 2020

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Durban - Some of your rights are going to be curtailed over the next three months following President Cyril Ramaphosa's decision to declare the spread of the Covid-19 virus a national disaster.

The declaration gives the government wide-ranging power that allows it to regulate the movement of people, cuts the red tape of government departments and even bans the sale of alcohol.

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A state of disaster lasts for three months and can be extended or cancelled by the president. 

By noon on Monday, 61 people had tested positive for the virus in South Africa.

So far the enacting the declaration has enabled the government to close South Africa's borders and revoke the visas of people coming from country's that are high risk to the virus such as Italy, South Korea and Spain.

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The president announced a national command centre - chaired by Ramaphosa - that will meet every three days to deal with the outbreak.

Under the declaration the government powers extend to assisting or protecting the public, providing relief, protecting property and fighting disruption.

The national disaster means that the government can use use emergency procurement procedures, which can bypass all the normal procurement procedures and allow it to use "any available resources of the national government", such as vehicles or facilities, or state employees as emergency workers.

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The government also has the power to regulate, as it sees fit, the movement of persons and goods.

At a multi-government press conference in Pretoria on Monday, Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni said that the management team for national disaster will funded from the national disaster fund. He did not want to say how much funding would be made available.

Under the declaration, alcohol sales can be banned. However, Police Minister, Bheki Cele said on Monday that takeaway sales will be encouraged.

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The government has so far said that visits to South African prisons will be cancelled for 30 days and 35 land ports of entry will be closed.

School will close early this week and university's have been asked to also close.

Gatherings of more than 100 people have been banned.

In addition, there will be random checks at taxi ranks across the country for people who may have coronavirus and that taxis will have to be disinfected.

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