This the full statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing measures taken by the country to combat the Covid-19 epidemic.
Fellow South Africans, I am addressing you this evening on a matter of great national importance.
The world is facing a medical emergency far graver than what we have experienced in over a century. The World Health Organisation has declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global pandemic.
There are now more than 162,000 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus across the globe. Given the scale and the speed at which the virus is spreading, it is now clear that no country is immune from the disease or will be spared its severe impact.
Never before in the history of our democracy has our country been confronted with such a severe situation.
From the start of the outbreak in China earlier this year, the South African government has put in place measures to screen visitors entering the country, to contain its spread and to treat those infected.
As of now, South Africa has 61 confirmed cases of people infected with the virus, and this number is expected to rise in the coming days and weeks.
Initially, it was people who had travelled out of the country, especially from Italy, who had positively tested for the virus.
It is concerning that we are now dealing with internal transmission of the virus. This situation calls for an extraordinary response; there can be no half measures.
Cabinet held a special meeting earlier today.
After which, due to the serious measures we are going to announce, I have consulted the premiers.
We have decided to take urgent and drastic measures to manage the disease, protect the people of our country and reduce the impact of the virus on our society and on our economy.
We have now declared a national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act. This will enable us to have an integrated and co-ordinated disaster management mechanism that will focus on preventing and reducing the outbreak of this virus.
We will also be able to set up emergency, rapid and effective response systems to mitigate the severity of its impact.
Following an extensive analysis of the progression of the disease worldwide and in South Africa, Cabinet has decided on the following measures:
Firstly, to limit contact between persons who may be infected and South African citizens.
We are imposing a travel ban on foreign nationals from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China as from 18 March 2020.
We have cancelled visas to visitors from those countries from today and previously granted visas are hereby revoked.
South African citizens are advised to refrain from all forms of travel to or through the European Union, United States, United Kingdom and other identified high-risk countries such as China, Iran and South Korea.
This is effective immediately.
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation as the number of coronavirus cases in SA increases.
Government will continue to regularly issue travel alerts referring to specific cities, countries or regions as the situation evolves based on the risk level. Any foreign national who has visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa.
South African citizens returning from high-risk countries will be subjected to testing and self-isolation or quarantine on return to South Africa.
Travellers from medium-risk countries – such as Portugal, Hong Kong and Singapore – will be required to undergo high-intensity screening.
All travellers who have entered South Africa from high-risk countries since mid-February will be required to present themselves for testing.
We will strengthen surveillance, screening and testing measures at OR Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka International Airports.
South Africa has 72 ports of entry in the country which are land, sea and air ports. Of the 53 land ports, 35 will be shut down with effect from Monday 16 March.
Two of the eight sea ports will be closed for passengers and crew changes.
Effective immediately, all non-essential travel for all spheres of government outside of the Republic is prohibited.
We further discourage all non-essential domestic travel, particularly by air, rail, taxis and bus.
Secondly, it is essential therefore that we minimise the risk of the spread of this virus by limiting contact amongst groups of people.