• Declared National State of Disaster
• Travel ban on high-risk countries starting 18 March.
• Visas have been cancelled and existing visas will be revoked.
• SA citizens will not be allowed to travel to high-risk countries.
• SA citizens returning from high-risk countries will be placed in quarantine.
• SA has 72 ports of entry, 35 will be shut down from Monday.
• All non-essential travel outside of the country is prohibited.
• Domestic travel is not encouraged.
• Social and community gatherings are discouraged.
• Gatherings of more than 100 people will be prohibited.
• Schools will be closed from Wednesday 18th until the end of the Easter Weekend.
• Businesses to exercise great care to protect staff.
• There will be quarantine sites in all metros.
• There will be a tracking system to track and monitor those who have been infected with the virus.
The world is facing a medical emergency far graver than what we have experienced in over a century. The world health organization has declared the Coronavirus outbreak as a global pandemic.
There are now more than 162 000 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus across the globe. Given the scale and the speed at which the virus is spreading it is now clear that no country is immune from the disease or will be spared its severe impact. Never before in the history of our democracy has our country been confronted with such a severe situation.
From the start of the outbreak in China earlier this year, the South African government has put in place measures to screen visitors that enter the country, contain its spread and treat those that are infected.
As of now, South Africa has 61 confirmed cases of people infected with the virus and this number is expected to rise in the coming days and weeks.
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 the internal transmission of the virus.
This situation calls for an extraordinary response and there can be no half measures. Cabinet held a special meeting today after which due to the serious due to which the serious measures we are going to announce, I have taken time to consult with our premieres and a number of our other stakeholders. We have decided to take urgent and drastic measures to manage the disease, protect the people of our country and to reduce the impact of the virus on our society and on our economy. We have now declared a national state of disaster in terms of the disaster management act. This will enable us to have an integrated and coordinated disaster management mechanism that will focus on preventing and reducing the outbreak of this virus. We will also be able to set up emergency, rapid and effective response systems to mitigate the severity of its impact. Following an extensive analysis of the progression of the disease worldwide and in South Africa cabinet has decided on the following measures.
Firstly, to limit contact between persons who may be infected and South African citizens. We are imposing a travel ban on foreign nationals from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, United Kingdom and China as from 18 March 2020.
We have cancelled visas from visitors to those countries from today and previously granted visas are hereby revoked.
South African citizens are revised to refrain from all forms of travel to or through the European Union, United States, United Kingdom and other identified high-risk countries such as China, Iran and South Korea. This is effective immediately. The government will continue to regularly issue travel alerts referring to specific cities, countries or regions as the situation evolves based on the risk level. Any foreign national who has visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa.
South African citizens returning from high-risk countries will be subjected to testing and self-isolation or quarantine on return to South Africa.
Travellers from medium risk countries such as Portugal, Hong Kong and Singapore will be required to undergo high-intensity screening.
All travellers who have entered South Africa from high-risk countries since mid-February will be required to present themselves for testing. We will strengthen surveillance, screening and testing measures at OR Tambo international airport, Cape Town international airport and Kingshaka international airport.
South Africa has 72 ports of entry into our country which are though the land, sea and airports.
Of the 53 land ports, 35 will be shut down with effect of Monday 16th March.
2 of the 8 seaports will be closed for passengers and crew changes effective immediately.
All non-essential travel for all spheres of government outside of the republic is prohibited. We further discourage all non-essential domestic travel, particularly by air, rail, taxies and buses.
Secondly, it is essential that we minimize the risk of the spread of this virus by limiting contact amongst groups of people.
While we appreciate the economic, religious and cultural significance of social and community gatherings, the coronavirus is spread through the contact between persons.
As we have said, the current circumstances require extraordinary measures to cap the spread of infections, therefore to encourage social distancing.
Cabinet has decided on these additional measures. Gatherings of more than 100 people will be prohibited. Mass celebrations of upcoming national days such as human rights day and other large government events will be cancelled.
Where small gatherings are unavoidable, organizers will need to put in place stringent measures of prevention and control.
Schools will be closed from Wednesday 18th March and will remain closed till after the Easter weekend.
To compensate, the midyear school holidays will be shortened by a week.
Government is working closely with colleges, universities and other public facilities such as parliament, prison, police stations and military installations to intensify hygiene control and other measures. Visits to all correctional services are suspended for 30 days with immediate effect.
Government is aware of the confirmed case of a student who has tested positive for the coronavirus at the university of the Witwatersrand. Those who have been in contact with the student will be quarentined. The minister of higher education, training and innovation is consulting with vice-chancellors and university as well as colleges across the country and will soon be announcing measures in this regard.
We call on all businesses including mining, retail, banking, farming to ensure that they take all necessary measures to intensify hygiene control.
We also call on the management of shopping malls, entertainment centres and other places frequented by large numbers of people to bolster their hygiene control.
Thirdly, to further strengthen our health response, the government is strengthening its surveillance and testing systems. We are in the process of identifying isolation and quarantine sites in each district and metro. Capacity is being increased at designated hospitals in all provinces. We are also increasing the capacity of existing contact tracing processes. We are partnering with the private sector to set up a national tracking, tracing and monitoring system of all people infected with the coronavirus and those they have been in contact with. We are undertaking a mass communication campaign on good hygiene and effective prevention behaviour.
Therefore, we are calling on everyone to change their behaviour. We would like the people of our country to wash their hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizers for at least 20 seconds. We would like our people to cover their nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or with a flexed elbow.
Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flulike symptems.
We are calling for a change of behaviour amongst all of us.
Mass minimize physical contact with other people and encourage elbow greeting rather than shaking hands because of the severity of this virus and its rapid spreading, the government will make funding available to capacitate the sectors dealing with the national response to this virus outbreak.
Since the outbreak of this pandemic, our government’s response has been lead by the interministerial committee chaired by the minister of health doctor Zweli Mkhize. We congratulate them on the outstanding work they have done together with the able support teams they have been able to steer our country through this challenging and uncertain period. As part of the intensification of this effort, we have decided to establish a national demand council which will be chaired by the president. National command council will include amongst others, members of the interministerial committee and will meet 3 times a week to coordinate all aspects of our extraordinary emergency response.
My fellow South Africans, in addition to the impact that this pandemic will have on health and well being of our people and the impact it will have on the day to day life of society, this coronavirus called covid19 will also have a significant and potentially lasting impact on our economy.
In the last few weeks, we have seen a dramatic decline in the economic activity in our major trading partners. A sudden drop in international tourism and severe instability across all global markets. The anticipated effects of the decline in exports and tourist arrivals will be exacerbated by both an increase of infections and the measures we are required to take to contain the spread of the disease. This will have a potentially severe impact on production, the viability of a number of busineses, job retention and job creation. The cabinet is therefore in the process of finalizing a comprehensive package of interventions to mitigate the expected impact of covid19 on our economy.
This package will consist of various physical and other measures and it will be concluded following consultation with business, labour and other relevant institutions.
It is clear that this disease will be extremely disruptive.
Our priority must be to safeguard the health and the well being of all South Africans to minimize the number of infections and to ensure all those infected get proper treatment.
While we are battling a contagious virus, perhaps the greatest dangers to our country at this time are fear and ignorance.
We must appreciate the extent of the threat that this disease presents. We must accept the anxiety that it causes our people but we cannot allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by fear and panic.
We should stop spreading fake and unverified news and create further apprehension and alarm amongst South Africans.
While we are facing a medical emergency far graver than what we have experienced in recent times, we are not helpless.
We have the knowledge, we have the expertise amongst us, we have the means and the resources to fight this disease.
We also have partners, as in various institutions, various countries, we also have the World Health Organization working with us continuously.
If we act swiftly, with purpose and collectively we can limit the effects of the coronavirus on our people and on our country. Although we may be limiting physical contact and interfering with the rights of people, this epidemic has the potential to bring us closer together.
We are responding as a united nation to a common threat.
This national emergency demands that we cooperate, that we collaborate and that we take action.
More than that, it requires solidarity, understanding and compassion.
Those who have resources, those who are healthy, need to assist those who are in need and who are also vulnerable.
All the institutions of the state will be mobilized to lead this effort, but if we are to succeed, every company, every trade union, every nongovernmental organiaztion, university, college, school, religious group, taxi association, funeral association, stokvels, all of us will need to play our part.
We thank those people who suspected that they may have been exposed to the virus for coming forward to be tested and for taking measures such as self-isolation to prevent further transmission to others.
We thank the medical teams around the country who are leading our response and are putting the wellbeing of other ahead of the risks that they themselves could face.
On Saturday we welcomed 104 of the compatriots who were in Wuhan city, China.
We thank the repatriation team for the task they performed with pride and efficiency to return them to the country and ultimately finally to their families.
The repatriation has been successful and those who have returned have settled in the quarantine areas.
We thank the military health officials, the pilots who flew the plane, the cabin crew and all those who participated in this very testing exercise. We thank the leadership and the people of Polokwane and Limpopo as a whole for warmly welcoming our fellow South Africans.
We also extend our gratitude to the staff and the management of the ranch hotel in Polokwane who have accommodated our compatriots and have also subjected themselves to quarantine.
We extend our appreciation to companies and organizations and individuals who have taken it upon themselves to disseminate information about this virus and to raise awareness.
We also thank those businesses that have taken steps to protect their employees and those unions who have taken steps to protect their members.
Ministers who are at the frontline of coordinating our response to this crisis will be briefing the media and the nation tomorrow where they will unpack details in the relation to the measures that we are announcing tonight.
Fellow South Africans this is the most definitive moment, I have great trust that our people will respond positively to this call for 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 I am sure we will overcome it.
We have never been defeated by anything or even when we are united.
United we are strong and divided we are weak and can be defeated.
I wish to thank you and I hope that we can take on this task with the strength and the courage that we have as South Africans.
Thank you and goodnight.