President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed millions of concerned South Africans today from the Union Building in Pretoria about the plan going forward to control the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. He said that given the scale and the speed at which the virus is spreading, it is now clear no country is immune or will be spared.

The president confirmed there has been internal transmission of the virus and has declared the spread of the virus as a national state of disaster. The number of affected people has now increased to 61 people from 51 earlier today.

“We have decided to take urgent and drastic measures to protect people of our country We have declared a national state of disaster,” said Ramaphosa.

Worldwide, there are 162,674 confirmed cases, of which 6,069 people have died and a further 76,219 have recovered.

What you need to know about the president’s announcement:

– Schools will be closed from 18 March until after the Easter holidays
– Visits to correctional services have been suspended for 30 days
– Gatherings of more than 100 people will not be allowed and large government gatherings will be cancelled
– There is a travel ban on Italy, Iran, Spain, Germany, UK, US, South Korea and China from 18 March
– Visas to these countries will be cancelled and previous ones revoked
– South African citizens returning from high-risk countries will be subjected to testing and self-isolation or quarantine on return to the country
– Travellers from medium-risk countries such as Portugal, Hong Kong and Singapore will be required to undergo high intensity screening
– Domestic travel is discouraged
– All businesses are to ensure they intensify measure regarding hygiene control
– All shopping centres must ensure all measures taken to intensify hygiene control
– The capacity of health centres are being increased nationally

“South Africa has 72 ports of entry in the country which are land, sea and air ports. Of the 53 land ports, 35 will be shut down with effect from Monday 16 March. Two of the 8 sea ports will be closed for passengers and crew changes,” he said.

The president said that COVID-19 will potentially have a lasting impact on the economy.

He asked South Africans not allow themselves to be overwhelmed by fear and panic. “While we are facing a medical emergency far graver than in recent times, we are not helpless. We have expertise, means, knowledge, partners. We have the World Health Organization working with us,” he said.

A National Command Council chaired by Ramaphosa will also be set up and they will meet thrice weekly to coordinate South Africa’s emergency response to the virus.

Ramaphosa stressed the importance of personal basic hygiene and encouraged people to minimise contact with people.

“Fellow South Africans, this is the most definitive Thuma Mina moment for our country. I have great trust that our people will respond positively to this call to common action. This epidemic will pass but it is up to us to determine how long it will last, how damaging it will be, and how long it will take our economy and our country to recover. It is true that we are facing a grave emergency. But if we act together, if we act now, and if we act decisively, we will overcome it,” he concluded.

Article written by

Nidha Narrandes

Nidha Narrandes is a food-obsessed travel addict with 21 years of journalism experience. Her motto - Travel. Eat. Repeat. She is happiest on a road to nowhere without a plan. A masterchef at home, she can't do without chilli - because chilli makes the world a tastier place.