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#Coronavirus: South Africa Extends Lockdown By Two Weeks

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South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa has extended the country’s COVID-19 lockdown period by two weeks.

On March 23rd the president imposed a nationwide lockdown that went into effect at midnight on Thursday March 26th. The lockdown was due to end on April 16th. It will now run until the end of April.

South Africa has seen a rapid increase in the number of people infected with the COVID-19 Coronavirus. The country has 1,934 cases. 18 people have died from the virus while 95 people have made recoveries.

In an effort to combat the Coronavirus president Cyril Ramaphosa said his cabinet will take a pay cut.

“In support of this effort, we have decided that the President, Deputy President, Ministers and Deputy Ministers will each take a one-third cut in their salaries for the next three months. This portion of their salaries will be donated to the Solidarity Fund” said Ramaphosa.

Watch or read his full speech below:

WATCH: Click on the image below

[FULL SPEECH]
MESSAGE BY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA ON COVID-19 PANDEMIC THURSDAY, 9 APRIL 2020

My Fellow South Africans,

At midnight tonight, it will be exactly two weeks since our country entered into an unprecedented nation-wide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

During the course of these last two weeks, your lives have been severely disrupted, you have suffered great hardship and endured much uncertainty.

We have closed our borders to the world, our children are not in school, businesses have closed their operations, many have lost their income, and our economy has ground to a halt.

And yet, faced with such daunting challenges, you, the people of South Africa, have responded with remarkable patience and courage.

You have respected the lockdown and largely observed the regulations.

You have accepted the severe restrictions on your movement and many of the daily freedoms that we all take for granted.

You have done so because you have understood the devastating effect that this disease will have on the health and well-being of all South Africans unless we take drastic measures.

You have also understood that we must do everything in our power to prevent the massive loss of life that would occur if we did not act.

For your cooperation, for your commitment and above all for your patience, I wish to thank you personally.

I wish to thank you for reaffirming to each other and to the world that we South Africans are a people who come together and unite at moments of great crisis.

Earlier today I had a most productive meeting with our Premiers about the work they are doing in provinces and districts to stop the spread of the virus.

I also had a discussion with the leaders of all our political parties represented in Parliament, who collectively pledged their support for the efforts that are being made to combat the pandemic.

Through this we are demonstrating that we are able to work together across party lines to confront a common threat.

Since I announced the lockdown just over two weeks ago, the global coronavirus pandemic has worsened.

Two weeks ago, there were 340,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the world.

We now have over 1.5 million confirmed cases worldwide.

Over 90,000 people across the world have died from this disease.

The health systems of many countries have been overwhelmed.

Even the most developed economies in the world have not had the means to treat the many thousands who have fallen ill.

They have struggled to find the medical supplies and personnel necessary to deal with the pandemic.

The devastating effect of this is that many people have died.

The global evidence is overwhelming.

It confirms that our decision to declare a national state of disaster and to institute a nation-wide lockdown was correct and it was timely.

While it is too early to make a definitive analysis of the progression of the disease in South Africa, there is sufficient evidence to show that the lockdown is working.

Since the lockdown came into effect, the rate at which new cases have been identified here in South Africa has slowed significantly.

From 1,170 confirmed cases on the 27th of March, the number of confirmed cases today stands at 1,934.

In the two weeks before the lockdown, the average daily increase in new cases was around 42%.

Since the start of the lockdown, the average daily increase has been around 4%.

While we recognise the need to expand testing to gain a better picture of the infection rate, this represents real progress.

The measures we have taken – such as closing our borders and prohibiting gatherings – as well as the changes that we have each had to make in our own behaviour, have definitely slowed the spread of the virus.

But the struggle against the coronavirus is far from over.

We are only at the beginning of a monumental struggle that demands our every resource and our every effort.

We cannot relax. We cannot be complacent.

In the coming weeks and months, we must massively increase the extent of our response and expand the reach of our interventions.

We are learning both from the experiences of other countries and from the evidence we now have about the development of the pandemic in South Africa.

Both make a clear and compelling case to proceed in a manner that is cautious and properly calibrated.

Simply put, if we end the lockdown too soon or too abruptly, we risk a massive and uncontrollable resurgence of the disease.

We risk reversing the gains we have made over the last few weeks, and rendering meaningless the great sacrifices we have all made.

Fellow South Africans,

This evening, I stand before you to ask you to endure even longer.

I have to ask you to make even greater sacrifices so that our country may survive this crisis and so that tens of thousands of lives may be saved.

After careful consideration of the available evidence, the National Coronavirus Command Council has decided to extend the nation-wide lockdown by a further two weeks beyond the initial 21 days.

This means that most of the existing lockdown measures will remain in force until the end of April.

We will use the coming days to evaluate how we will embark on risk-adjusted measures that can enable a phased recovery of the economy, allowing the return to operation of certain sectors under strictly controlled conditions.

We will also use this time to ramp up our public health interventions.

We did not take this decision to extend the lockdown lightly.

As your President, I am mindful of the great and heavy burden this will impose on you.

I am keenly aware of the impact this will have on our economy.

But I know, as you do, that unless we take these difficult measures now, unless we hold to this course for a little longer, the coronavirus pandemic will engulf, and ultimately consume, our country.

We all want the economy to come back to life, we want people to return to work, we want our children to go back to school, and we all want to be able to move freely again.

But our immediate priority must remain to slow down the spread of the virus and to prevent a massive loss of life.

We must do this while preventing our economy from collapsing and saving our people from hunger.

We are determined to pursue a path that both saves lives and protects livelihoods.

Our strategy is made up of three parts:

–              Firstly, an intensified public health response to slow down and reduce infections.

–              Secondly, a comprehensive package of economic support measures to assist businesses and individuals affected by the pandemic.

–              Thirdly, a programme of increased social support to protect poor and vulnerable households.

As government, together with our many partners, we have used this lockdown period to both refine and intensify our public health strategy to manage the coronavirus.

Our approach is to screen in communities and test people in hospitals, clinics and mobile clinics, to isolate those who are infected, and to care for those who are ill in our health facilities.

We need to do this intensively and systematically.

We have used the last week to develop our screening and testing methodology in various parts of the country.

Over the next two weeks, we will roll out the community screening and testing programme across all provinces, focusing in particular on highly vulnerable communities.

Those who test positive and cannot self-isolate at home will be isolated at special facilities that have been identified and are now being equipped.

At all times, we will observe the human rights of all people.

Let us not discriminate against people who test positive.

To ensure that our strategies are effectively coordinated and to ensure they are informed by comprehensive, real-time data, we have established the COVID-19 Information Centre at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

This world-class centre will keep track of all screening, testing, isolation and hospitalisation throughout the country.

It is already identifying infection hotspots.

It is following the spread and the severity of the disease, and enabling us to move our focus and resources where they are most needed.

We are working with mobile telephony companies and other institutions to locate those people who have tested positive for the virus and those with whom they have been in contact.

As part of the second element of our strategy, we have put in place various measures to provide support to businesses in distress, to workers facing loss of income, to the self-employed and to informal businesses.

Many of these measures are being taken up by both large and small businesses.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund has set aside R40 billion to help employees who will be unable to work, as part of the effort to prevent jobs losses as a result of the lockdown.

To date, it has paid out R356 million.

I would like to applaud all those employers who have continued to pay their workers during this difficult time, as well as those employers who are working with unions and government to assist their employees to access these benefits.

I would like to call on all businesses to continue to pay their suppliers, to the extent that they can, to ensure that those suppliers can also continue to operate and pay their staff and suppliers.

In this respect, I would like to appeal to all large businesses not to resort to force majeure and stop paying their suppliers and rental commitments, as such practice has a domino effect on all other businesses dependent on that chain.

We must do all we can to ensure that the underlying economy continues to function and to focus support on those small businesses that really need them.

The Industrial Development Corporation has set aside R3 billion for the procurement of essential medical supplies.

It has already approved R130 million in funding and expects to approve a further R400 million in the coming week to companies who applied for funding under this special facility.

The Small Enterprise Finance Agency has approved the postponement of loan repayments for a period of 6 months.

The small business debt relief and business growth facilities are currently adjudicating applications for assistance.

There is a total of R500 million available in support.

Government has reprioritised R1.2 billion to provide relief to smallholder farmers and to contribute to the security of food supply.

In addition to these expenditure measures, the Reserve Bank has also lowered interest rates and has taken measures to inject liquidity into the economy.

One of the biggest challenges that all countries in the world are facing is the shortage of medical supplies to fight the coronavirus.

As a country we have had to rely on our own capabilities to supply these goods, but have also had to source supplies from other countries.

In recent weeks, we have seen a massive mobilisation of South African business, labour, academics and government agencies to build the stocks of medical and other equipment needed to fight coronavirus.

We have, for example, established the National Ventilator Project to rapidly mobilise the technical and industrial resources of our country to manufacture non-invasive ventilators, which can be used to support patients afflicted with the disease.

Other projects are focusing on increasing the local manufacture of protective face masks, hand sanitisers and pharmaceutical products which can be used by health care workers and the public at large.

As the third part of our coronavirus response, we have been working to provide basic needs such as water and to maintain the reliability of food supply to the poorest South Africans.

We have also expanded the provision of food parcels and we’ve provided spaza shops with financial support.

To date, government has delivered over 11,000 water storage tanks to communities in need across the country, and many of these have been installed.

In addition, 1,000 water tankers have been provided for the delivery of water.

Several homeless people have been accommodated in 154 shelters.

I am pleased to report that the Solidarity Fund – which was established to mobilise resources from companies, organisations and individuals to combat the coronavirus pandemic – has so far raised around R2.2 billion.

It has already allocated around R1 billion to buy sterile gloves, face shields, surgical masks, test kits and ventilators.

It will also allocate funds for humanitarian relief to vulnerable households, in addition to the R400 million set aside by government for Social Relief of Distress grants.

All of these efforts, while necessary and commendable, will not be sufficient on their own to cushion the poor from the impact of this pandemic.

Nor will they provide the relief that businesses and their employees require.

Additional extraordinary measures will need to be put in place in the coming weeks and months to absorb the sudden loss of income to both businesses and individuals.

We are in a situation that demands swift action and exceptional methods, a situation that demands innovation and the mobilisation of every resource that we have.

Cabinet will be developing a comprehensive package of urgent economic measures to respond both to the immediate crisis and to the severe economic challenges that we must confront in the months ahead.

Further announcements on the next phase of our economic and social support strategy will be made in due course.

An essential part of our response to this emergency is the principle of solidarity.

From across society, companies and individuals have come forward to provide financial and other assistance.

In support of this effort, we have decided that the President, Deputy President, Ministers and Deputy Ministers will each take a one-third cut in their salaries for the next three months.

This portion of their salaries will be donated to the Solidarity Fund.

We are calling on other public office bearers and executives of large companies to make a similar gesture and to further increase the reach of this national effort.

In this regard, we welcome the donation of 20,000 cellphones by Vodacom for health workers that will be involved in screening and tracing in communities.

As we have stressed before and we will stress once again, our struggle against the coronavirus requires fundamental changes in behaviour from all of us.

Until we have contained the coronavirus, the same rules remain.

Shaking hands, hugging, sitting close to each other and other forms of physical contact enable this virus to be transmitted, and must be avoided.

We must continue to wash our hands regularly and thoroughly using water and soap or sanitiser.

To stay safe and to keep others safe we must continue to respect whatever restrictions that are placed on our movement and on our daily lives

Over the past two weeks, I have been speaking to other African leaders about a coordinated continental effort to combat the coronavirus and support our people and our economies.

We have established an AU COVID-19 Response Fund to mobilise the resources necessary to support this effort.

We have reached out to world leaders, even as they struggle with the pandemic in their countries, to assist the continent with essential medical supplies and to support a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa.

As we confront this disease in our country, we are part of a great global effort that is bringing humanity together in ways that many never thought possible.

For billions across the world, and for us here in South Africa, the coronavirus pandemic has changed everything.

We can no longer work in the way we have before.

As government, as NGOs, as political parties, as large corporations and small businesses, as financial institutions, as community organisations and as South Africans we will need to adapt to a new reality.

As we emerge from this crisis, our country will need to undergo a process of fundamental reconstruction.

To do so, we will draw on our strengths: our abundant natural resources, our advanced infrastructure, our deep financial markets, our proven capabilities in information and communication technology, and the depth of talent among our people.

We will draw on our proven capacity for innovation and creativity, our ability to come together in a crisis, and our commitment to each other and our common future.

We will learn from global experience and the best scientific evidence, but we will craft a uniquely South African response that uses our own capabilities as a nation.

This weekend is a sacred time for many South Africans.

For many, it will be difficult to spend this time without their friends and family.

I ask that you keep in your thoughts tonight all in our land who are vulnerable, destitute and alone.

I ask that you give what you can to alleviate their burden.

To contribute to the Solidarity Fund in any way you can.

This is a difficult time for us all.

Yet the message of Easter is one we carry in our hearts tonight.

It is the message of hope, of recovery and of rebirth.

As we walk this road together, as we struggle to defeat this pandemic, we remain strong and united and resolved.

Much is being asked of you, far more than should ever be asked.

But we know that this is a matter of survival, and we dare not fail.

We shall recover.

We shall overcome.

May God bless South Africa and protect her people.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE PRESIDENCY OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA

Current Affairs

‘With Covid-19, See How Resilient Nature Is’

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Adjany da Silva Freitas Costa; image supplied

Adjany da Silva Freitas Costa, the youngest minister in the Angolan cabinet, is an intrepid adventurer, biologist and conservationist committed to saving the world’s last wild places.

Adjany da Silva Freitas Costa is not your ordinary minister. At 30 years old, the Luanda local is currently the youngest minister to serve in the Angolan cabinet and an intrepid adventurer with an inspiring hands-on background.

In 2015, Costa was one of the braves who undertook a four-month journey for the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project. The captivating trip documentary, Into the Okavango, follows the courageous crew of scientists (including Costa) who travel the riverine route. The journey began in the highlands of Angola and had the team meandering 2,400km by mokoro (a traditional canoe), camping wild along the Okavango River until they reached the town of Maun in Botswana. The trip illustrated how the Okavango Delta relies on Angolan rains, but also highlighted the costs of Angola’s lengthy war to its landscapes.

In April this year, Costa assumed the government position as Minister of Culture, Tourism and Environment. “It is not exactly unusual for a woman to join the Angolan government,” says Costa, “but it’s not exactly common either.” Currently, there are seven women ministers in the Angolan cabinet, creating a gender split of roughly 35% female.

“We bring a lot of benefit for the simple fact that we can bring inclusion to the politics forged in society,” says Costa. “I think that every single one of us brings a different perspective to the whole context of politics. Currently, I am the youngest minister to serve in the Angolan cabinet. It makes me feel like there is hope for youth and hope for the future. I do think we bring an innovative way of thinking and innovative vision into the current system that is very beneficial to change and to the improvement of the system here in Angola.”

The National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project expedition revealed new species (to date, ongoing field trips have resulted in the discovery of 26 species new to science, more than 75 species potentially new to science, and more than 130 species previously unknown in Angola). It also embedded in Costa a life-long commitment to saving the world’s last wild places. It short, it changed her life.

“It changed the whole perception that I had of everything, personally, professionally, academically,” Costa admits. “The trip helped me see the world and my participation in the world, in a very different way. In a very concrete way and I don’t think I would be sitting here answering these questions if I hadn’t participated. I have never, ever in my entire life “envisioned myself as a minister. I don’t think I’ve ever envisioned myself being part of politics, but there is a writer who once said, ‘You don’t choose politics. Politics chooses you’, and that’s exactly what happened. I see it as an opportunity to bring change from the outside. I am someone that has always applied the policy that’s created by decision-makers. I think it’s an opportunity to bring that applicability into the system and make it much more action-focused – and more than a piece of paper.”

In 2017, Costa was named an emerging explorer at National Geographic, and in 2019, she became the Young Champion of the Earth for Africa in the United Nations Environment Program. Before taking a seat in the government, Costa worked as an ethno-conservationist to pioneer projects that developed working conservation models for communities living alongside crucial wildlife hubs.

“Being a biologist is also a great advantage for this position. I believe that policies should be made to be applied and not archived,” Costa says. Another benefit for her position is that she knows all about being on the ground. “I started my journey in conservation, looking specifically at biodiversity and working directly with the specimens. I started with turtles, and all we did was patrol the beaches and look after the nests – and that was it. There was no engagement. For a long time, I always thought there was a separation between humans and wildlife – and that the separation was needed for us to protect wildlife. Working for the past five years in the East of Angola, I realized that it is the complete opposite. The gap that we’ve created with nature is what causes us to destroy nature in the first place.”

Costa has a masters degree in Biology and a PhD in International Wildlife Conservation Practices from Oxford University. In the wake of Covid-19, we are just beginning to see the harsh effects of tourism loss to wilderness protection.

“Rural communities are the true protectors of the environment around them,” Costa says. “Ethno-conservation is the art, and it is our privilege of being able to work with communities for the sake of nature. Not just for the conservation of biodiversity, but also the improvement of their own lives.”

The drastic decline in visitor numbers in the wilds of Kenya, Zimbabwe and across the African continent highlights the importance of such a conservation model more than ever as decades of conservation successes hunker in jeopardy due to tourism collapse. 

“Our main target for tourism in Angola is internal tourism. We have 29 million people that don’t know most of the country,” says Costa. “We have a lot of potential though; whether it’s landscape, culture, adventure or eco-tourism, it’s possible in Angola. We are very much focused on creating the services and infrastructure for internal tourism before we look outside of our borders.

“In terms of tourism, Angola’s biggest asset is definitely diversity,” Costa enthuses. “Not just naturally and not just culturally. The conditions that you find from one place to the other are so unique that you can go, within Angola, to 10 different places that feel like completely different countries. We literally go from a tropical forest, all the way to a desert in one row. Angola has partnered with different collaborators to assure the protection of these spaces. Whatever happens in Iona National Park is completely different from what happens in the Luengue-Luiana National Park (which feeds the Okavango Basin), and that’s completely different from what happens in the Quiçama National Park.”

She also believes that protecting such wild spaces enables wildlife to flourish.

“Nature has this incredible thing that is, to me, one of the most fantastic traits. It is resilient. Even now, with this Covid-19 situation, we have seen how resilient nature is. Wilderness itself can resuscitate, and wilderness can find a future – if we just know how to protect it.”

When asked about inspiration and the future, Costa cites other intrepid conservationists, Jane Goodall and Sylvia Earle as strong influences.

“If I have to send a message to young women around the world, what would it be? Do it. That’s something that I always say. Do it. Whatever it is that we set our minds to do. We can most definitely, definitely do it. We can achieve impossible things. I’m a minister today. That says a lot!”

 – By Melanie van Zyl

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Current Affairs

The Sale Of Alcohol Will Be Allowed In South Africa As Country Moves To Level 3 Of Lockdown On 1st June, Cigarettes Still Prohibited

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South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation announcing that the country will be placed on ‘Level 3’ on June 1st.

The president further stated that alcohol will be sold for home consumption. The sale of tobacco products will remain prohibited due to the health risks associated with smoking.

Here’s the full speech below:

ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA ON SOUTH AFRICA’S RESPONSE TO THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC, UNION BUILDINGS, TSHWANE 24 MAY 2020

Fellow compatriots,
Ri perile, Dumelang, Sanibonani, Molweni, Ndi madekwana, Gooie naand, Good evening.
It is exactly 10 weeks since we declared a national state of disaster in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Since then, we have implemented severe and unprecedented measures – including a nation-wide lockdown – to contain the spread of the virus.
I am sorry that these measures imposed a great hardship on you – restricting your right to move freely, to work and eke out a livelihood.
As a result of the measures we imposed – and the sacrifices you made – we have managed to slow the rate of infection and prevent our health facilities from being overwhelmed.
We have used the time during the lockdown to build up an extensive public health response and prepare our health system for the anticipated surge in infections.
Now, as we enter the next phase of our struggle against the coronavirus, it is once again your actions that will determine the fate of our nation.
As individuals, as families, as communities, it is you who will determine whether we experience the devastation that so many other countries have suffered, or whether we can spare our people, our society and our economy from the worst effects of this pandemic.
We know that the most effective defence against this virus is also the simplest.
Washing our hands regularly, wearing a face mask, keeping at least a 1.5 metre distance from other people, avoiding touching our faces with unwashed hands and cleaning surfaces we touch regularly.
It is through diligently and consistently observing these basic practices that we will overcome this pandemic.
There are now 22,583 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa.
Around half of these people have recovered, either because their symptoms have been mild or because of the care they have received in our hospitals.

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Tragically, some 429 people have died.
To their families, friends, and colleagues, we offer our deepest sympathies.
Your loss is our loss.
There are now just over 11,000 active coronavirus cases in the country.
Of these, 842 patients are in hospital and 128 of these are in intensive care.
The number of infected people could have been much higher had we not acted when we did to impose drastic containment measures.
We are consequently in a much better position than many other countries were at this stage in the progression of the disease.
As a result of the drastic containment measures we have taken, we have been able to strengthen our health response.
As of today, we have conducted over 580,000 coronavirus tests and more than 12 million screenings.
There are nearly 60,000 community health workers who have been going door-to-door across the country to identify possible cases of coronavirus.
In preparation for the expected increase in infections, around 20,000 hospital beds have been, and are being, repurposed for COVID-19 cases, and 27 field hospitals are being built around the country. A number of these hospitals are ready to receive coronavirus patients.
At the same time, we have experienced several challenges, including a shortage of diagnostic medical supplies as a result of the great demand for these supplies across the world.
This has contributed to lengthy turnaround times for coronavirus testing, which in turn has had an impact on the effectiveness of our programmes.
The scale and the speed of the public health response to this emergency has been impressive, but there is still much more that we need to do.
We have known all along that the lockdown would only delay the spread of the virus, but that it would not be able to stop it.
Until there is a vaccine available to all, the coronavirus will continue to spread in our population. This means that we must get used to living with the coronavirus for some time to come.
There is a massive global effort to develop a vaccine, of which South Africa is part.
Government is supporting and funding several research projects, including a plan to locally manufacture coronavirus vaccines as soon as candidates are available. We will use the skills, expertise, infrastructure and organisations within the vaccines industry to produce and distribute the vaccine.
We have argued that should a vaccine be developed anywhere in the world it should be made freely and equitably available to citizens of all countries.

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As scientists had predicted, the infections in our country have now started to rise sharply.
One-third of the cumulative confirmed cases were recorded in the last week alone.
And we should expect that these numbers will rise even further and even faster.
Various models have been built to predict the trajectory of the virus and help to inform our planning and budgeting.
These models tell us two important things.
Firstly, that the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa is going to get much worse before it gets better.
Secondly, and most importantly, they tell us that the duration, scale and impact of the pandemic depends on our actions as a society and on our behaviour as individuals.
By following basic defensive practices, we can reduce both the number of infections and the number of deaths.
When I last addressed the nation, I said that we would undertake a process of consultation to guide the actions we must now take.
Since then, we have met with the leaders of political parties represented in Parliament and with business, trade unions and the community constituency.
We have met with Premiers, mayors, representatives of the South African Local Government Association, traditional leaders and representatives of interfaith communities.
As we have done from the start of this crisis, we have also sought the advice of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, who are a group of highly qualified, respected and experienced scientists, clinicians, epidemiologists and public health experts.
We are extremely grateful for the work they have done and continue to do to ensure that our response is informed by the best available scientific evidence.
We appreciate the diverse and sometimes challenging views of the scientists and health professionals in our country, which stimulate public debate and enrich our response.
We have also been guided by advice from the World Health Organization and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
As we are dealing with a pandemic that affects the lives and livelihoods of all South Africans, it was important that we consult as widely as possible.
These consultations have been both necessary and worthwhile in that we received several constructive suggestions.
They have enriched the thinking in government, providing a direct view of the challenges that our people in different constituencies confront.
The groups we consulted are as diverse and as varied as the South African people themselves, and all agree that we acted appropriately and decisively to slow the spread of the virus.

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They are all united in their insistence that our central goal must be to save lives and protect livelihoods.
While there are several areas of difference, all of these groups are in broad agreement on the approach we need to take to build on the gains we have made thus far.
While the nation-wide lockdown has been effective, it cannot be sustained indefinitely.
We introduced the five-level COVID-19 alert system to manage the gradual easing of the lockdown.
This risk-adjusted approach is guided by several criteria, including the level of infections and rate of transmission, the capacity of health facilities, the extent of the implementation of public health interventions and the economic and social impact of continued restrictions.
It is on the basis of these criteria – and following consultation – that Cabinet has determined that the alert level for the whole country should be lowered from level 4 to level 3 with effect from 1 June 2020.
Moving to alert level 3 marks a significant shift in our approach to the pandemic.
This will result in the opening up of the economy and the removal of a number of restrictions on the movement of people, while significantly expanding and intensifying our public health interventions.
Even as we move to alert level 3 it is important that we should be aware that there are a few parts of the country where the disease is concentrated and where infections continue to rise.
We will have a differentiated approach to deal with those areas that have far higher levels of infection and transmission.
These areas will be declared coronavirus hotspots.
A hotspot is defined as an area that has more than 5 infected people per every 100,000 people or where new infections are increasing at a fast pace.
The following metros have been identified as coronavirus hotspots: Tshwane, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Ethekwini, Nelson Mandela Bay, Buffalo City and Cape Town.
The other areas that are hotspots are West Coast, Overberg and Cape Winelands district municipalities in the Western Cape, Chris Hani district in the Eastern Cape, and iLembe district in KwaZulu-Natal.
We are particularly concerned about the situation in the city of Cape Town and in the Western Cape generally, which now has more than half the total infections in the country.
We are attending to this as a matter of urgency.
The list of hotspot areas will be reviewed every two weeks depending on the progression of the virus.

In dealing with the virus in these areas we will implement intensive interventions aimed at decreasing the number of new infections

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We are putting in place enhanced measures of surveillance, infection control and management.
We will assign a full-time team of experienced personnel to each hotspot.
This team will include epidemiologists, family practitioners, nurses, community health workers, public health experts and emergency medical services, to be supported by Cuban experts.
We will link each hotspot to testing services, isolation facilities, quarantine facilities, treatment, hospital beds and contact tracing.
Should it be necessary, any part of the country could be returned to alert levels 4 or 5 if the spread of infection is not contained despite our interventions and there is a risk of our health facilities being overwhelmed.
In time, however, through our efforts, it will be possible to place areas where infections are low on levels 2 or 1.
The implementation of alert level 3 from the beginning of June will involve the return to operation of most sectors of the economy, subject to observance of strict health protocols and social distancing rules.
The opening of the economy and other activities means that more public servants will be called back to work.
This will be done in accordance with provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and as guided by the Department of Public Service and Administration working together with all other departments in government.
We appreciate the work that continues to be done by public servants especially those in the front line in the fight against COVID-19.
The safety of all workers, including public servants, is a matter of concern to us.
We will continue to make all efforts for the adequate provision of personal protection equipment to ensure safety for everyone while at work.
Our priority is to reduce the opportunities for the transmission of the virus and create a safe environment for everyone.
We are therefore asking that those who do not need to go to work or to an educational institution continue to stay at home.
People will also be able to leave their homes to buy goods or obtain services including medical care.
People will also be able to exercise at any time during the day, provided this is not done in groups.
The curfew on the movement of people will be lifted.

Alcohol may be sold for home consumption only under strict conditions, on specified days and for limited hours.

Announcements in this regard will be made once we have concluded discussions with the sector on the various conditions.

The sale of tobacco products will remain prohibited in alert level 3 due to the health risks associated with smoking.

All gatherings will remain prohibited, except for funerals with no more than 50 people or meetings in the workplace for work purposes.

Any place open to the public where cultural, sporting, entertainment, recreational, exhibitional, organisational or similar activities may take place will remain closed.
We have had fruitful discussions with leaders of the interfaith religious community on their proposals for the partial opening of spiritual worship and counselling services subject to certain norms and standards.

We have all agreed to have further discussions on this issue and are confident we will find a workable solution.
We wish our Muslim compatriots well for Eid.
They have all gone through a period of sacrifice, which should ordinarily be followed by a celebration.
We wish to thank them for making the necessary adjustments to this celebration as we continue to fight this pandemic together.
In opening up the economy, we will rely on social compacts with all key role players to address the key risk factors at the workplace and in the interface between employees and the public.
We will therefore be finalising a number of sector protocols and will require every company to develop a workplace plan before they re-open.
According to these plans, companies will need to put in place sanitary and social distancing measures and facilities; they will need to screen workers on arrival each day, quarantine those who may be infected and make arrangements for them to be tested.
They also need to assist with contact tracing if employees test positive.
Because of their vulnerability, all staff who are older than 60 years of age and those who suffer from underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer should ideally stay at home.
Employees who can work from home should be allowed to do so.
Subject to these measures, all manufacturing, mining, construction, financial services, professional and business services, information technology, communications, government services and media services, will commence full reopening from 1 June.
Appropriate restart and phasing in arrangements will need to be put in place for every workplace.


Wholesale and retail trade will be fully opened, including stores, spaza shops and informal traders. E-commerce will continue to remain open.

Other sectors that opened previously, such as agriculture and forestry, utilities, medical services, food production and manufacture of hygiene products, will remain fully opened.
To ensure that we maintain social distancing, certain high-risk economic activities will remain prohibited. These include:

  • Restaurants, bars and taverns, except for delivery or collection of food. – Accommodation and domestic air travel, except for business travel, which will be phased in on dates to be announced. – Conferences, events, entertainment and sporting activities. – Personal care services, including hairdressing and beauty services.
    The return to work will be phased in so that the workplace can be made coronavirus-ready. It must be done in a manner that avoids and reduces risk of infection.
    We have held discussions with the tourism, hotel and restaurant industry regarding the challenges and hardships these sectors are experiencing.
    They have made several proposals, regarding the measures they intend to put in place when their sectors are opened. We are giving consideration to the proposals.
    There are many companies that have gone beyond what is required by regulation to support the coronavirus response, including those who already provide screening, testing and even isolation facilities for their employees.
    We will be discussing with larger employers how they can make quarantine facilities available for their workers.
    We applaud those companies that have contributed to the Solidarity Fund and in other ways to our response. These include companies like Volkswagen, which is building a field hospital in an unused factory in Nelson Mandela Bay that can accommodate 4,000 beds.
    One of the greatest challenges we will face with the move to level 3 – which will enable the return to work of up to 8 million people – will be the increased risk of transmission in public transport.
    We need to have a partnership between commuters, taxi and bus operators, business and government to keep our people safe.
    Commuters will always need to wear masks, to wash their hands before and after they have travelled and avoid touching their faces with unwashed hands.
    Commuters will also need to keep a safe distance from other commuters.
    Taxi and bus operators need to observe the regulations to be announced by the Minister of Transport, including ensuring that their vehicles are regularly sanitised.
    A number of businesses have advised us that they are looking at how they can reduce congestion on public transport, including through staggering working hours and providing transport for employees. 8
    Our national borders will remain closed except for the transport of goods and repatriation of nationals.
    Another difficult challenge that we had to confront is the reopening of schools.
    Our priority is the health and well-being of learners, students, educators and workers in these institutions.
    We are also concerned about the growth and development of our children and that an entire generation of learners should not be permanently disadvantaged by this pandemic.
    We are therefore taking a cautious and phased approach to the re-opening of schools, guided by medical advice and in consultation with all stakeholders.
    We will be resuming classes for grades 7 and 12 learners from 1 June.
    Strict infection control measures and, where necessary, additional water and sanitation infrastructure are being put in place to enable social distancing, regular hand washing and learner safety.
    Measures are also being put in place to ensure safety as children access the school nutrition programme and learner transport.
    The school calendar will be revised, and the curriculum trimmed so that we can still recover the 2020 school year.
    It is understandable that there is some concern about the re-opening of schools, and I must stress that no parent will be forced to send their child to school if they are worried about safety.
    But if we all work together, if we diligently follow all the precautions and protocols, we will be able to keep our schools safe.
    We are also taking a phased approach to the resumption of learning at institutions of higher learning.
    From 1 June, all public universities are expected to implement remote teaching and learning strategies to ensure that all students are given a fair opportunity to complete the 2020 academic year.
    With the start of alert level 3, no more than a third of the student population will be allowed to return to campuses on condition that they can be safely accommodated.
    Institutions will open up further as the coronavirus alert level changes.
    As we mobilise our health resources to meet the expected surge of coronavirus cases, we must make sure that we do not create the space for the emergence of other health crises.
    Routine health services should therefore be fully opened and continue to provide services with attention to childhood immunisation, contraceptive services, antenatal care, diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis and HIV, management of chronic diseases and support for survivors of gender-based violence. 9
    We need to consistently affirm that the rights of all people to life and dignity stands at the centre of our response to the coronavirus, and that we must stand firm against any actions that infringe on these and other basic human rights.
    Fellow South Africans,
    We have witnessed the courage of those who have continued to work throughout the nationwide lockdown, caring for those who are sick, providing food and basic services, working to keep our country going under difficult conditions.
    The burden of the lockdown has been most severe for those least able to bear it.
    Now it is time for most of us to return to work and to resume parts of our lives that have been on hold since the lockdown began.
    However, I want to emphasise that the easing of some restrictions does not mean that the threat posed by the coronavirus has passed or that our fight against the disease is over.
    In fact, the risk of a massive increase in infections is now greater than it has been since the start of the outbreak in our country.
    Now is the time when we must intensify our efforts and deepen our cooperation.
    Now, we look once again to you, to your actions and to your sense of responsibility.
    We look to you to uphold the sanctity of life and the dignity of all people.
    We look to you to protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us.
    We look to you to demonstrate the solidarity and compassion that has characterised the response of the South African people to this crisis.
    In meeting this grave challenge, we will move ahead as one people, united in action, and determined that we will surely overcome.
    At this time, more than any other, we are reminded of the words of Madiba, when he said: “It is now in your hands.”
    May God bless South Africa and protect its people.
    I thank you.

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Heroes & Survivors

A Day In The Life Of A Taxi Driver In Lockdown

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Tshepo Ralephata; images by Motlabana Monnakgotla

Tshepo Ralephata has been plying the roads to ferry essential services workers during the Level 5 lockdown in South Africa.

Modern heroes don’t wear capes; they either only don blue scrubs or show the willingness to offer a public service in the time of crisis.

In the time of Covid-19, today’s heroes are the men and women next door, and those on the streets, such as taxi owner, Tshepo Ralephata, who has been plying the roads to ferry essential services workers since the stringent days of the Level 5 lockdown in South Africa.

Ralephata has been working in the taxi industry for over 10 years now, but has never worked under “such life-threatening circumstances” as he is now, he observes. But he has to do so also to look after his family.

“I don’t think about being infected with the virus when I’m on the road because I have to make money, I need to pay rent, the kids have to eat any my partner is unemployed making me the only bread-winner, so I don’t have a choice, I have to work,” says Ralephata.

As a FORBES AFRICA photojournalist looking for great street images, I joined Ralephata in his taxi to document a day in his life in the time of lockdown. His blue Toyota Hiace minibus taxi is his mobile office and the permit to drive during the lockdown sees him working every two days; which has admittedly affected his daily earnings, which has come down from R1,400 to R650.

“We are only allowed to work from 5AM to 10AM and from 4PM to 8PM, the breaks are also an inconvenience. I can also only load 10 passengers at a time, while on the other hand, I buy my own sanitizers to make sure passengers maintain hygiene.”

Indeed, that is what Ralephata did after picking me up at a busstop. He leaned over with a disinfecting sanitizer and sprayed it on to my hands before I entered.

A kilometer into the trip, a young lady entering the taxi refused to be sanitized insisting that she had sanitized at home.

“This is what I deal with some days,” rues Ralephata.

On arrival at a taxi rank, I saw dozens of commuters going about their daily working lives wearing facemasks and gloves, hopping from one taxi to another.

The taxis at the rank are sanitized twice, but Ralephata laments they are not getting much support from the government because they have to buy their own protective gear.

As we wait for the second load of passengers, Ralephata keeps his sanitizer close at hand and stands by the sliding door, spraying every passenger coming in.

On our way home, he tells me about his daily fears.

“When someone coughs or sneezes, I get scared and think that’s the virus. I just wish that the person is not carrying the virus,” he says.

The young entrepreneur is aware that his job could put his family at risk.

“When I go home after work, I sanitize my hands before holding the door handle, then I go straight to the bathroom for a hot bath and only then, can I bond with the kids.”

Covid-19 is crippling his business and he prays for a vaccine soon because his liquor store business has also been affected.

Ralephata is not reaching his daily targets but helping the community is as much an important motive for him.

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