Government is to launch a massive house-to-house Covid-19 screening campaign in the coming weeks as the fight against the deadly virus enters its next phase.
The testing programme, which will be carried out by 10 000 field workers visiting people at home, was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday night in a televised address to the nation.
Ramaphosa said that the death toll from the pandemic had risen to three, with a total of 1 326 confirmed cases reported to the command council, which he chairs.
The president said South Africa was now entering a new phase in the fight against Covid-19 and the government would be rolling out a screening, testing, tracing and monitoring programme on a “huge scale”.
A total of 10 000 field workers would visit homes around the country scanning people for Covid-19 symptoms. Those found to have symptoms would be referred to clinics for testing. People with moderate symptoms would be treated at home or at Covid-19 facilities, while those with serious symptoms would be transferred to hospitals.
Ramaphosa said a mobile tracing system to track those who had come into contact with infected people and to monitor new cases would be set up, while a number of mobile testing centres would be set up during April.
Turning to the 21-day lockdown imposed from last Friday, Ramaphosa said it was “absolutely necessary to save the lives of thousands, even tens of thousands, of our people”.
He said while most people had co-operated with the 18 000 security personnel deployed to enforce the lockdown, some had still not understood the severity of the threat posed by the virus.
He conceded that “mistakes” had been made in how the lockdown had been implemented, but that the system would be improved as time went on.
Ramaphosa called on people to stay in their homes for the next 17 days and to “do everything you can not to get infected and not infect anyone else”.
“Every time you violate regulations or try to get around the rules you are putting yourselves and others at risk and helping to spread the virus,” he said.
He added that the government would take further steps to assist small businesses and self employed people who were losing their incomes.