By Ashok Ramsarup :: South Africa has declared a national state of disaster in terms of the National Disaster Management Act after the Novel Coronavirus-19 had taken the world by storm. During an address from the Union Building in Pretoria, President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that 162 000 people were tested with the virus.
In taking the queue from the World Health Organisation, Ramaphosa also declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic, stating that the world was a facing a medical emergency far graver than what was experienced in over a century.
“As a matter of urgency, the government will be setting up emergency and rapid response systems in the fight against the disease that claimed many lives and affected thousands of people in several countries. The response systems are expected to be by the respective Government Ministers tomorrow.
“The government have entered in a partnership with the private sector and the various role-players to set up a national tracking and monitoring system for all coronavirus cases in the country,” Ramaphosa said.
As a precautionary measure, President Ramaphosa had introduced travel bans from high-risk countries, including Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, Britain, China and the United States as from the 18th of March. He made it abundantly clear that people who visited high-risk areas as of mid-February were required to come for testing and self-quarantine.
South Africa has 72 ports of entry land, sea, airport. As from Monday, there would be 35 shuts down from 53 land ports. Two out of eight seaports would be closed for passengers, while non-essential travel would be prohibited and non-essential domestic travel to be stopped. The country’s borders would be closed to all foreign nationals on the African continent impacted by the virus.
The president was clear that gatherings of more than 100 people would now be halted. Schools would be closed from Wednesday.
Since the start of the outbreak in China earlier this year, the government has put in place measures to screen visitors entering the country, to contain its spread and to treat those infected. Ramaphosa said: “The aim of taking urgent and drastic measures is to manage the disease, protect the people of the land and reduce the impact of the virus in our society and on our economy.
“Government will continue to regularly issue travel alerts referring to specific cities, countries or regions as the situation evolves based on the risk level of Covid-19 virus. Given the scale and the speed at which the virus is spreading, it is now clear that no country is immune from the deadly disease or will be spared its severe impact,” said the president.
He urged all businesses, including mining, retail, banking, farming to ensure that they take all the necessary measures to intensify hygiene control. The government called on the management of malls, entertainment centres and other places frequented to exercise cleanliness.
The government encouraged social distancing as the Cabinet had decided on the following measures:
As part of a mass communication campaign on good hygiene and effective prevention behaviour, the public had been urged to wash their hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitisers for at least 20 seconds.
As a result of the severity of this virus and its rapid spreading, the government would make funding available to enable the sectors dealing with the national response to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Ashok Ramsarup is award-winning senior journalist of South Africa