South Africa and the world are facing a medical emergency far graver than anything we have seen in over a century, President Cyril Ramaphosa told the nation as he declared the Covid-19 pandemic a national disaster and outlined extraordinary measures to fight it.
At the time of Mr Ramaphosa’s televised address to the nation, on Sunday, the country had 61 confirmed cases of people infected with the virus.
That number was expected to rise in the coming days and weeks, Mr Ramaphosa said.
Initially, it had been people who had travelled out of the country, especially from Italy, who had tested positive, he said.
“€œIt is concerning that we are now dealing with internal transmission of the virus.”
The World Health Organisation has declared the Covid-19 outbreak a global pandemic. More than 164 000 people have tested positive for what it is commonly referred to as the coronavirus in 146 countries with more than 6 400 deaths.
“Never before in the history of our democracy has our country been confronted with such a severe situation,” Mr Ramaphosa said.
An “extraordinary response” was needed to limit the impact of the virus on South African society and the country’s economy, the president said. These measures include:
l Prohibiting gatherings of more than 100 people.
l Banning foreign nationals from high-risk countries, such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, America, the UK, and China, from visiting South Africa. Those who entered the country from mid-February must present themselves for testing.
l Cancelling visas to visitors from those countries and revoking those already granted.
l Discouraging all non-essential domestic travel, particularly by air, rail, taxis and bus.