President Cyril Rampahosa has extended the national lockdown by two weeks to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus, saying that failing to do so would allow the pandemic to “engulf” the country and claim tens of thousands of lives.
With the number of confirmed cases reaching 1 934 at the time of publication, Rampahosa called on South Africans to support the decision and abide by the conditions of the lockdown, which would remain in place, stating: “This a matter of survival, we dare not fail.”
At the same time, he and the Cabinet, as well as provincial premiers, would take a one-third salary cut for three months, with the proceeds being contributed to the Solidarity Fund, which currently stood at about R2.2-billion.
Thanking South Africans for their co-operation and patience, Rampahosa said the Covid-19 pandemic was worsening around the world, with over 1.5-million confirmed cases.
While it was too early to make a full analysis of the progression of the virus, it was clear that the lockdown was working, because the rate of new infections had dropped exponentially, from 42% before the lockdown to 4% currently.
The experience of other countries showed that lifting the lockdown too swifty or early could result in a massive increase in the spread of the virus, which would engulf the country if not halted.
“We risk reversing the gains we have made over the past week, rendering useless the great sacrifices we have all made,” Ramaphosa said.
He said that, after “careful consideration”, it had been decided to extend the lockdown by two weeks, until the end of April, with most of the lockdown measures remaining in place. The full lockdown would therefore be for five weeks.
At the end of the two additional weeks, risk-adjustment measures would be put in place to allow a phased return to economic activity.
Ramaphosa said the decision was not taken lightly, because the government was mindful of the effect on people’s lives and the country’s economy.
Ramaphosa added that the government would use the next two weeks to ramp up public-health interventions.
“I know, as you do, that unless we take these difficult measures now … the coronavirus will engulf and ultimately consume our country. Our immediate priority must remain to slow down the spread of the virus and to prevent a massive loss of life.”
Increased economic and social support
Ramaphosa said the government’s strategy focused on intensifying public-health responses; a comprehensive package of economic-support measures and a programme of increased social support for vulnerable households.
South Africa needed to build, systematically, its screening and testing capacity in the next two weeks and would roll out community testing, focusing on vulnerable communities, during this time.
Those people who tested positive and could not self-isolate would be isolated at quarantine centres that were currently being equipped.
Rampahosa said the Covid-19 information centre at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research would keep track of all screening, testing, hospitalisation and treatment and was identifying hotspots and following the spread of the disease to identify the areas of most need.
Watch the president’s address again
Read the full speech below: