President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency (ANA)
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency (ANA)

Ramaphosa declares Covid-19 national disaster, says 61 cases confirmed in SA

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Mar 15, 2020

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Pretoria - President Cyril Ramaphosa says there are now 61 confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Africa and has declared a national state of disaster.

"Initially, it was people who had travelled out of the country, especially from Italy, who had positively tested for the virus. It is concerning that we are now dealing with internal transmission of the virus," the president said.

Ramaphosa was addressing the country from the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Sunday after a special Cabinet meeting to discuss matters related to the pandemic.

"We have now declared a national state of disaster. We will set up emergency and rapid response systems," Ramaphosa said.

The following measures will be in place amongst others:

* Limited contact with persons who may be infected.

* 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. 

* Visas from those countries cancelled from today and previously granted visas are now revoked.

* South Africans returning from high-risk countries will be subjected to testing and self-quarantine.

* Travellers from medium-risk countries – such as Portugal, Hong Kong and Singapore – will be required to undergo high intensity screening.

* Gatherings of more than 100 people are now prohibited.

* Schools will be closed from Wednesday until after the Easter weekend. 

* Visits to all correctional facilities cancelled for the next 30 days.

* All non-essential travel for all spheres of government outside of the country is prohibited. 

* We further discourage all non-essential domestic travel, particularly by air, rail, taxis and bus. 

* Strengthened surveillance, screening and testing measures at OR Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka International Airports

* 35 of the 53 land entry points will be closed and 2 out of the 8 sea ports.

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Ramaphosa says a national command council has been established that will be meeting three times a week.

He called on everyone to change their behaviour including washing your their hands frequently and using hand sanitizers, covering the nose and mouth when sneezing, avoiding contact with people with flu-like symptoms and minimising physical contact.

"We must encourage the elbow greeting," the president said.

Ramaphosa says the government will be partnering with the private sector to set up a national tracking and monitoring system for all coronavirus cases. 

Cabinet is also finalising a fiscal package to help deal with the outbreak, the president said.

For more information visit: https://sacoronavirus.co.za/ or join the Department of Health's WhatsApp group on 0600 123 456. 

IOL and Reuters

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