In a speech delayed by almost two hours, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a series of travel restrictions and other social initiatives all designed to prevent and limit the potential damage from a Coronavirus outbreak.
The disease is currently sweeping through Asia, Europe and America and while its impact on Africa has to date been minimal, the moves are all considered necessary.
In total, more than 300 people have been diagnosed with the virus in Africa. Six deaths have been reported. South Africa has now reported 62 cases, most of which involve people arriving from Europe and North America. The moves last night were triggered by South Africa’s first instances of local transmission, however, which show the virus is now active in SA.
“Initially, it was people who had travelled out of the country, especially from Italy, who had positively tested for the virus,” he said.
“It is concerning that we are now dealing with internal transmission of the virus,” Mr Ramaphosa said.
Among the more dramatic measures which have been announced was the closure of 35 out of 72 of South Africa’s land border crossings from Monday, along with two of its eight seaports. Foreign nationals from eight countries, UK, Iran, China, Germany, Italy, Spain, South Korea and the US, have been banned from entering South Africa from Wednesday and all government schools have been shut until the end of the Easter holiday.
Gatherings of more than 100 people have been banned, which has forced the cancellation of almost all the events in the Country Life diary for March as well as many others including Easter church ceremonies and the Zionist Christian Church’s gathering in Moria.
The President further advised that people avoid domestic travel particularly when it comes to using planes, trains, buses and taxis.
Subsequent to Ramaphosa’s far-reaching announcement Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has announced that random screening will be conducted at train stations and taxi ranks throughout the country.
Mbalula said the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) and trains would undergo sanitisation processes and that public transport users would be urged to practice social distancing. Mbalula added that airport personnel are now required to wear surgical masks and gloves during the course of their duties.