While addressing the nation, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an implementation of a “risk adjusted strategy” through which the government will “take a deliberate and cautious approach to the easing of current lockdown restrictions”.
Ramaphosa announced the country will begin a gradual and phased recovery of economic activity. The president further stated that there will be a national level and separate levels for each province, district and metro in the country to “ensure that our response to the pandemic can be as precise and targeted as possible”.
The country is currently at Level 5, which the president says “requires a full national lockdown to contain the spread of the virus”. This will end at the end of April. Level 4 will begin on May 1st.
Levels explained below:
Read the full speech below:
STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA ON SOUTH AFRICA’S RESPONSE TO THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC, UNION BUILDINGS, TSHWANE
My Fellow South Africans,
It has been exactly seven weeks since the first case of the coronavirus was confirmed in our country.
Since then, all our lives have changed in fundamental ways.
As a nation we have been forced to take aggressive action against an invisible enemy that threatened our lives and the lives of our loved ones.
We have been forced to adapt to a new way of living, in a short space of time.
As we enter the fifth week of an unprecedented nation-wide lockdown – and as we look to the future – we should remember why we are here.
The novel coronavirus, which was identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year, has spread rapidly across the world.
To date, over 2.6 million confirmed cases have been reported worldwide.
The actual number of people infected is likely to be far higher.
The coronavirus causes the disease known as COVID-19, a respiratory illness for which humans currently have no immunity and for which there is no known cure.
The coronavirus is passed from person to person in small droplets from the nose and mouth that can be transmitted by direct contact, on surfaces we touch or when an infected person coughs or sneezes when they are close to another person.
Most infected people exhibit only mild symptoms; some do not show any symptoms at all.
But there are people who develop severe symptoms and require hospitalisation.
These are usually older people and those who suffer from underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer.
For some of these people, COVID-19 is fatal.
Across the world, more than 185,000 people have succumbed to the disease.
Here in South Africa, at least 75 people have lost their lives.
Because the coronavirus can spread so rapidly through a population, it can overwhelm even the best-resourced health system within a matter of weeks.
This is what has occurred in many countries across the world, and it is precisely what we, as South Africa, have gone to great lengths to prevent.
Very few health systems across the world – if any – are prepared for a sudden and exponential increase in people requiring treatment for a severe respiratory illness.
As a result, if the virus spreads too quickly, there are not enough hospital beds, intensive care units, ventilators, personal protection equipment or medicine for everyone who needs them.
To make matters worse, people who are suffering from other conditions or need emergency procedures are unable to get the care they need.
And in such circumstances, many lives that could have been saved, are lost.
I am reiterating these basic facts – which by now are probably familiar to many of you – because they explain the actions we have taken to date and they inform the measures I am announcing this evening.
From the moment we declared the coronavirus pandemic to be a national disaster on Sunday 15 March, our objective was to delay the spread of the virus.
We have sought to avoid a massive surge in infections and an uncontrollable increase in the number of people needing medical care.
Our approach has been based on the principles of social distancing, restriction of movement and stringent basic hygiene practices.
By delaying the spread of the virus, we have had time to prepare our health facilities and mobilise some of the essential medical supplies needed to meet the inevitable increase in infections.
And it is in so doing, that we hope to save tens of thousands of lives.
There is clear evidence that the lockdown has been working.
Together with the other measures we have taken – such as closing our borders – and the changes in behaviour that each of us has made, the lockdown has slowed the progression of the pandemic in the country.
The World Health Organization has commended South Africa for acting swiftly and for following scientific advice to delay the spread of the virus.
Yet, while a nation-wide lockdown is probably the most effective means to contain the spread of the coronavirus, it cannot be sustained indefinitely.
Our people need to eat. They need to earn a living. Companies need to be able to produce and to trade, they need to generate revenue and keep their employees in employment.
We have accordingly decided that beyond Thursday 30 April, we should begin a gradual and phased recovery of economic activity.
We will implement a risk adjusted strategy through which we take a deliberate and cautious approach to the easing of current lockdown restrictions.
We have decided on this approach because there is still much that is unknown about the rate and manner of the spread of the virus within our population.
The action we take now must therefore be measured and incremental.
This approach is guided by the advice from scientists who have advised that an abrupt and uncontrolled lifting of restrictions could cause a massive resurgence in infections.
We cannot take action today that we will deeply regret tomorrow.
We must avoid a rushed re-opening that could risk a spread, which would need to be followed by another hard lockdown, as has happened in other countries.
We have to balance the need to resume economic activity with the imperative to contain the virus and save lives.
To achieve this, we have developed an approach that determines the measures we should have in place based on the direction of the pandemic in our country.
As part of this approach, there will be five coronavirus levels:
Level 5 means that drastic measures are required to contain the spread of the virus to save lives.
Level 4 means that some activity can be allowed to resume subject to extreme precautions required to limit community transmission and outbreaks.
Level 3 involves the easing of some restrictions, including on work and social activities, to address a high risk of transmission.
Level 2 involves the further easing of restrictions, but the maintenance of physical distancing and restrictions on some leisure and social activities to prevent a resurgence of the virus.
Level 1 means that most normal activity can resume, with precautions and health guidelines followed at all times.
To ensure that our response to the pandemic can be as precise and targeted as possible, there will be a national level and separate levels for each province, district and metro in the country.
We are currently at Level 5, which requires a full national lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.
This is the highest level of lockdown and was imposed when drastic action was necessary to curb transmission.
The National Coronavirus Command Council will determine the alert level based on an assessment of the infection rate and the capacity of our health system to provide care to those who need it.
We have undertaken a detailed exercise to classify the different parts of the economy according to the risk of transmission in that sector, the expected impact of the lockdown, the economic contribution of the sector and the effect on livelihoods.
The relevant Ministers will provide a detailed briefing on the classification of industries and how each is affected at each level.
We will give all industry bodies an opportunity to consider these details and, should they wish, to make submissions before new regulations are gazetted.
The National Coronavirus Command Council met earlier today and determined that the national coronavirus alert level will be lowered from level 5 to level 4 with effect from Friday the 1st of May.
This means that some activity will be allowed to resume subject to extreme precautions to limit community transmission and outbreaks
Some businesses will be allowed to resume operations under specific conditions.
Every business will have to adhere to detailed health and safety protocols to protect their employees, and workplace plans will be put in place to enable disease surveillance and prevent the spread of infection.
All businesses that are permitted to resume operations will be required to do so in a phased manner, first preparing the workplace for a return to operations, followed by the return of the workforce in batches of no more than one-third.
In some cases, a sector will not be able to return to full production during Level 4 while the risk of infection remains high.
These will be spelt out next week following a final round of consultations.
Businesses will be encouraged to adopt a work-from-home strategy where possible.
All staff who can work remotely must be allowed to do so.
The relevant Ministers will provide details on the process for the phased re-opening of schools and other educational institutions.
As we gradually ease the restrictions, it is necessary that many of the measures to contain the spread of the virus remain in place.
When the country moves to level 4 on 1 May:
Our borders will remain closed to international travel, except for the repatriation of South African nationals and foreign citizens.
No travel will be allowed between provinces, except for the transportation of goods and exceptional circumstances such as funerals.
Public transport will continue to operate, with limitations on the number of passengers and stringent hygiene requirements, including that all passengers must wear a face mask.
The public is encouraged to stay at home, other than for essential personal movement, doing essential work and work in sectors that are under controlled opening. People can exercise under strict public health conditions.
All gatherings, apart from funerals and for work, will remain prohibited.
Those who are elderly, and those with underlying conditions, must remain at home and take additional precautions to isolate themselves.
The sale of cigarettes will be permitted.
The range of goods that may be sold will be extended to incorporate certain additional categories. These will be detailed by the relevant Ministers.
It is important to note that several restrictions will remain in place regardless of the level of alert for as long as the risk of transmission is present:
Bars and shebeens will remain closed.
Conference and convention centres, entertainment venues, cinemas, theatres, and concerts will remain closed.
Concerts, sporting events, and religious, cultural and social gatherings will not be allowed until it is deemed safe for them to continue.
The coronavirus is spread by contact between people.
If people do not travel, the virus does not travel.
We know, for example, that just one funeral in Port St Johns and one religious gathering in Mangaung contributed to a spate of infections in their respective provinces.
From the evidence we have, we know that 75 percent of confirmed coronavirus cases are found in just six metro municipalities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Cape Town, Buffalo City, EThekwini and Mangaung.
It is therefore essential that we do everything in our means to restrict the movement of people and – although it runs counter to our very nature – to reduce the contact that each of us has with each other.
Ultimately, it is our own actions, as individuals, that will determine how quickly the virus spreads.
If we all adhere to instructions and follow public health guidelines, we will keep the virus under control and will not need to reinstate the most drastic restrictions.
We can prevent the spread of coronavirus by doing a few simple things.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol based sanitiser.
Keep a distance of more than one metre between yourself and the next person, especially those who are coughing and sneezing.
Try not to touch your mouth, nose and eyes because your hands may have touched the coronavirus on surfaces.
When you cough or sneeze cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue, and dispose of the tissue right away.
As we begin the easing of lockdown restrictions from the beginning of May, we are calling on all South Africans to wear a face mask whenever you leave home.
Our clothing and textile industry – including many small businesses – are gearing up to produce these masks on a mass scale.
The extraordinary measures that we have put in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic have been matched by the extraordinary contributions of many South Africans.
We pay tribute to them, the nurses, the doctors, the scientists and the community screening field workers who are leading our public health response.
We are committed to ensuring that they have all the resources they need – including adequate personal protection equipment and other recognition – to undertake the work that is being asked of them.
As we slowly ease the lockdown restrictions, we are substantially and rapidly increasing our public health response.
We have already seen a huge increase in community screening and testing.
Guided by advice from the World Health Organization and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, we have joined other African countries in placing mass screening and testing at the centre of the next phase of our response.
Earlier in the week, I announced an additional allocation of R20 billion to our health response to ensure that we have the beds, medicine, equipment and personnel required when the country experiences the peak of infections.
This evening, I also want to pay tribute to those who are providing essential services and goods – the truck, taxi, bus and train drivers; the workers on farms, in stores, at power stations, at water plants, at petrol stations, in banks and in call centres; the law enforcement officials and security personnel.
It is thanks to your efforts that we have been able to make such valuable progress in combating this pandemic.
As part of expanding this effort, I have employed over 70,000 defence force personnel to assist with various parts of our coronavirus response.
Until now, those defence force members that have been deployed have supported the South African Police Service in their responsibilities.
They will continue to do so, but they will also be providing assistance in other essential areas, such as the provision of water supply, infrastructure maintenance and health services.
This is a crucial moment in our struggle against the coronavirus.
It is a time for caution.
It is a time to act responsibly.
It is a time for patience.
There is no person who doesn’t want to return to work.
There is no company that does not want to re-open.
There is no student who does not want to return to their studies.
Yet, we are all called upon, at some time in our lives, to make great sacrifices for our own future and for the future of others.
There are times when we must endure hardship and difficulty, so that we can enjoy freedom and prosperity into the future.
During the past five weeks, we have demonstrated to the entire world what a nation can achieve with courage, determination and solidarity.
We must not give up now.
I am asking you to stay strong.
I am asking you to remain united.
Stay home, stay safe.
Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do.
May God bless South Africa and protect her people.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE PRESIDENCY OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
‘With Covid-19, See How Resilient Nature Is’
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
The Sale Of Alcohol Will Be Allowed In South Africa As Country Moves To Level 3 Of Lockdown On 1st June, Cigarettes Still Prohibited
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
A Day In The Life Of A Taxi Driver In Lockdown
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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