President Cyril Ramaphosa has published his weekly open letter to South Africa, focusing on the current coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the country’s economy.
As screening and testing is scaled up, the number of infections in South Africa is expected to rise, he said.
“This virus will be extremely disruptive, and our priority is to safeguard the health and well-being of all South Africans.
“We also have to address the inevitable economic fallout. We must expect a decline in exports, a drop in tourist arrivals and a severe impact on production, business viability and job creation and retention.”
Ramaphosa added that his cabinet is in the process of finalising a comprehensive package of interventions to mitigate the expected impact of Covid-19 on the economy.
This is being done in consultation with business, labour and other relevant institutions, he said.
“South Africa has a positive track record in managing public health emergencies. We have the knowledge, the means and the expertise. Our scientists and epidemiologists are world-class.”
As announced in his speech on Sunday evening, Ramaphosa said the government has put a raft of emergency measures in place, and will make funding available to support their implementation.
They include travel bans on visitors from high-risk countries; mandatory testing, self-isolation or quarantine for South African nationals returning from these countries; and strengthening surveillance, screening and testing at ports of entry into the country.
“Social distancing is critical if we are to contain the spread of Covid-19,” Ramaphosa said.
“Gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited and mass celebrations of national days are cancelled. Visits to all correctional centres are being suspended for 30 days with immediate effect. Non-essential international travel for government officials has been proscribed and non-essential domestic travel discouraged.”
Ramaphosa said that every citizen should take charge of their own safety by observing measures such as frequent hand-washing with soap or hand-sanitizers and covering their nose or mouth with a tissue or flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing.
“This is a difficult time. And yet it is in times of adversity that our strength is revealed.
“We will act decisively, with determination and with purpose. We will act as a collective, for it is upon the actions of every South African that the success of our efforts depend.”