Photograph — The Daily Beast

Yesterday, 15th of February 2020, the South African government declared a national state of disaster over the Covid-19 outbreak with critical measures that seek to curb the spread of the virus which has already affected 61 people. The declaration was made by the President, Cyril Ramaphosa, in a televised address to the nation, after an emergency cabinet meeting.

In a statement, the South African President said, “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.” He added that “there can be no half measures.” Some of the critical measures the government announced include an imposed travel ban on some nationals, a temporary lockdown of schools, prohibition of public gatherings above 100 people among other things. 

Also, Jackson Mthembu, who is the Minister in the Presidency, revealed that the meeting which started at 10:30 had concluded at 15:00. The meeting focused on a blueprint for how South Africa can survive the global pandemic. As of yesterday evening, 10 new cases were confirmed by the President, increasing the number of patients from 51 people earlier in the day to 61 people in a matter of hours.

Despite economic implications that could ripple from the decision, the government has placed a travel ban on some countries in order to promote the wellbeing of its citizens. This may have resulted from the fact that most of the 61 cases in South Africa had recently returned from mainland Europe and have tested positive to the coronavirus on arrival to the African country. 

A statement by the president reads, “We’re imposing a travel on ban on foreign nationals from Italy, Iran, South Korea, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China.” He further said, “We have cancelled visas from those countries.” The government advised against all travel to the EU, the United States, China, Iran, the UK and South Korea with immediate effect.

Ramaphosa stated that any foreign national who has visited these countries in the past 20 days, would be denied a visa. Plus, South Africans returning to the country from these high-risk countries will have to be quarantined for 14 days. He went on to advise all travellers who entered the country from these nations since mid-February to get themselves tested.

These measures are coming at a time when the country’s economy is struggling to survive a severe recession with most of its key economic drivers such as power supply, alongside its oil and mining sector are hit hard. However, the government has decided to prioritise the wellbeing of its citizens as workers are now advised to work from home.

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