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South Africa Coronavirus Update | Coronavirus-COVID-19 Updates in South Africa

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South Africa Coronavirus Update |

Coronavirus-COVID-19 Updates in South Africa

The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, designated under section 3 of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002) has in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 issued and gazetted a set of amendments of the directions to address, prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa.

These set of Directions are called the Directions on the once-off movement of persons and the transportation of goods for purposes of relocation. The once off movement will commence on 07 May 2020.

The directions will allow individuals and business to move premises within, and across provincial, metropolitan or district boundaries during the period of Alert level 4.

Citizens who were not able to do so due to the lockdown will be allowed to move houses with goods. This includes new lease agreements which were entered into before or during the lockdown period; or in instances where the property transfer occurred before the lockdown period. These directions are limited to a change in place of residence, including the transport of goods to a new place of residence, within the Republic.

Anyone who wishes to take advantage of this period to move, with their goods within, or across provincial, metropolitan or district boundaries, must obtain a permit from the station commander of a police station or a person designated by him or her.

All removals must be performed in compliance with the COVID-19 regulations and the relevant directions issued by the Minister of Transport.

A copy of the gazetted directions can be accessed at the following link: https://bit.ly/3ceioip

No, you may not travel to another province to attend the funeral of a close family member during the lockdown. However, the Minister of Transport is currently reviewing these regulations which may change in future.

During the lockdown period, minibus taxis and buses may transport essential services workers and passengers who need to travel for groceries, medical treatment, medication or access banking services.  These public transport service will however only be available between 05h00 to 10h00 and 16h00 to 20h00.

From Monday, 30 March 2020 until Friday, 3 April 2020, buses and minibus taxis are permitted to operate throughout the day. These modes of public transport will begin from 5am until 8 pm to allow for the collection of grants and buying groceries.

All owners of public transport must provide adequate sanitisers or other hygiene dispenser for washing of hands of all passengers.

All operators must ensure that public transport vehicles are sanitised before picking up and after dropping off passengers. All operators must ensure that vehicles’ door and window handles, armrest and hand rails are sanitised. The sanitisers used must have a minimum of 60% alcohol content.

No. Minibus taxis and buses may not load the maximum passenger capacity of public transport vehicles. Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula has, after careful consideration and in consultation with the taxi industry, rescinded the Direction allowing 100% loading capacity for taxis with immediate effect. Minibus taxis must therefore only apply a 70% loading capacity for public transport vehicles.

Minibus taxis and buses must reduce their maximum licensed passenger seating capacity to 70%, if passengers are not wearing masks. The follows applies:

(a) A minibus licensed to carry 10 passengers, is limited to carry a maximum of 7 passengers;

(b) A minibus licensed to carry 15 passengers, is limited to carry the maximum of 10 passengers;

(c) A midi -bus permitted to carry a maximum of 22 passengers, is limited to carry a maximum of 15 passengers.

All drivers must wear a surgical mask or N95 respiratory mask. Any marshal who interacts with members of the public in a public transport facility must wear a mask. All public transport operators are required to put measures in place to adhere to social distancing to curb the spread of the virus.

These transport services are available to transport essential service workers during the stipulated times of 05h00 to 10h00 and 16h00 to 20h00. However, a vehicle licensed to carry up to four passengers is limited to carrying 50% of their permissible passenger carrying capacity.

These transport services should provide adequate sanitisers or other hygiene dispenser for washing of hands of all passengers.  Operators must ensure that their vehicles are sanitised before picking up and after dropping off passengers. The sanitisers used to sanitise all public transport vehicles must have a minimum of 60% alcohol content. All drivers must wear a surgical mask or N95 respiratory mask.

In his address to the nation on Sunday, President Ramaphosa announced that the alert level for the whole country will be lowered from Level 4 to Level 3 with effect from 1 June 2020.

The President further emphasized that we must get used to living with the coronavirus for some time to come.  We must therefore internalize the new normal.  We have consistently emphasized that working with civil society, we will redouble our efforts in ensuring that the transport sector is not responsible for the rapid spread of the virus.

As the country moves to level 3, with more industries resuming operations, learners returning to school, the transport sector must be responsive to enable mobility of both workers and learners.  In doing so, we must maintain a delicate balance between enabling mobility and arresting the spread of the virus.  Our commitment to preservation of human life above all else, is informed by our constitution, which enjoins us in ensuring that the right to life is non-derogable and therefore supersedes all other rights.

The consultations we have held with industry bodies, across various modes of transport, have given us confidence that the majority of the sector is ready to resume operations with strict adherence to health protocols.

Regulations published by the Minister of Co-operative Governance, which give effect to Level 3, enjoins us to publish Directions, responsive to the gradual easing of the lockdown.  The re-opening of the schools and some institutions of higher learning in June require of us to put measures in place to enable safe movement of learners and students.  Similarly, the increase in the number of people returning to work means more activity on our roads.

Our level 3 Directions, which come into effect on 1 June 2020, demonstrate the careful balancing act of enabling mobility while arresting the spread of the virus through the transport system.

We have taken note of advisories from the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health, discouraging the use of sanitizing booths due to health concerns.  We will ensure that these are not utilized at our transport facilities.

MARITIME TRANSPORT

There will be no changes to the Directions regulating the movement of ships.  The ban on passenger vessels and cruise liners remains in place, and only vessels bringing in cargo are allowed to call on our ports.

However, it is important to note that movement of cargo from our sea-ports to its final destination is allowed.  Similarly, full operations for the port of Mossel Bay and port of Saldanha Bay for movement of Cargo will be permitted.

Furthermore, allowance will be made for South African registered seafarers to embark and disembark ships with a mandatory quarantine for those returning. To this extent, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) shall be directed to issue a Marine Notice to this effect.

AVIATION

Limited domestic air travel for business purposes will be allowed, subject to restrictions on the number of flights per day and authorization based on the reason for travel.  The availability of port health services will also guide the scheduling of flights.  The resumption of domestic flights will be rolled out in three phases.  This phased approach will be guided by the following considerations:

  • Port Health capacity at the golden triangle airports.  These are OR  Tambo International, Cape Town International and King Shaka International airports.
  • Initial period will also serve as a trial period to stress test the system and measures to determine if they are holding up or not.
  • Lanseria Airport to arrange Port Health Capacity and government to certify it before any flight is allowed to take off or land. We will in this regard, work closely with the management of this privately owned airport to ensure that all the necessary measures are in place.
  • Move to phase 2 is informed by the current low infection rates in the inland provinces.
  • We will further engage with the Industry stakeholders on the contributions that are necessary for Port Health capacity in the operations of Phases 2 and 3 of the roll-out.

Guided by these considerations, commercial aircraft movement will be allowed from these airports during each phase:

Phase 1

  • OR Tambo International Airport
  • Cape Town International Airport
  • King Shaka International Airport, and
  • Lanseria International Airport

Phase 2

  • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport
  • Polokwane International Airport
  • Bram Fischer Airport

Phase 3

  • Kimberley Airport
  • Upington Airport
  • East London Airport
  • Umtata Airport
  • Port Elizabeth Airport

Guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus in civil aviation activities have been developed by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and these will be implemented by the industry, with SACAA playing an oversight role.

We have evaluated the plans in full and have also considered the non-pharmaceutical interventions as well as mitigation strategies to be implemented by all airlines operating in our domestic markets and are confident that they will assist in the containment of the spread of the virus.  We have also assessed the measures being rolled out globally in the airline industry and benchmarked against these, when an assessment was done by the Department of Transport on the state of readiness related to the aviation industry.

Airports

Limited domestic air travel also means that flights will only be allowed to depart and land at selected airports in a phased manner as earlier explained.

Only passengers will be allowed inside the terminal buildings.  Therefore, no accompanying members of the public will be allowed inside the terminal buildings.

Temperature screening will be conducted at the terminal building entrances, before any passenger is allowed entry.

No passengers will be allowed inside the terminal buildings without masks.

ACSA will ensure effectiveness of the sanitization process before entering the terminal buildings, which may result in the number of entrances being reduced.

All the airports will have markings on the floor for social distancing of 1.5 metres.  This will be applicable at check-in counters, security checkpoints and airport lounges.

All airline check-in agents will wear face shields and the counters will be installed with protective screens.  Check-in counters will also be frequently sanitized.

All airport personnel will wear masks.

Passengers are encouraged to use self-check-in to avoid queues at the airport.

At boarding gates, boarding will be staggered and prioritized in terms of the number of passengers to board.  Sectional boarding will be implemented to avoid unnecessary contact inside the aircraft.

Inside the cabin, full capacity will be allowed.  It must be noted that the risk of COVID-19 infection onboard a commercial passenger airliner is lower than in many other confined spaces.  All our commercial aircrafts are fitted with the High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters.  These are manufactured to the same standard as those used in hospital operating theatres and industrial clean rooms, with the same efficacy of 99.97% in removing viruses.

While the total air supply inside the cabin is essentially sterile and particle free, the biggest risk is if someone enters or remains in that environment, while unwell with a viral infection.  This risk will be mitigated through the adoption of effective sanitization and personal hygiene protocols.

The following measures will apply inside the cabin of the aircraft:

  • no catering will be allowed;
  • no magazines on board;
  •  The last row will be reserved for isolation of suspected cases.

All aircrafts must be disinfected before entering into service and after each flight;

Loading capacity for all airport buses must be limited to 70%.  These buses must be disinfected after off-loading.  Drivers, baggage handlers and ground handlers must be fully equipped with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

On arrival, all passengers must be screened as they enter the terminal building.  Suspected cases must be referred to Port Health.

Aviation Training

Aviation Training Organisations are allowed to conduct both virtual and in contact aviation training to students that are South African citizens and to foreign students that are already in South Africa, subject to all applicable COVID-19 Regulations and Directions.

Foreign students who are not within the borders of South Africa are allowed to only conduct virtual training.

Additional authorisation for training flights is not required, provided that the aircraft used is registered with an approved Part 141 Aviation Training Organisation.

Skills tests are allowed provided that the Examiner or Instructor is authorised to conduct a flight test by the South African Civil Aviation Authority.

General Aviation operators will be required to develop and implement procedures consistent with applicable COVID-19 Regulations and Directions.

RAIL

When we presented Level 4 Directions, we indicated that commuter rail will resume operations gradually on an incremental basis, based on detailed plans submitted by operators.  Indeed, the Gautrain resumed its operations at the beginning of May 2020.  As on 1 June 2020, the Gautrain will resume the airport service.

Through our ongoing engagements and evaluation of PRASA’s state of readiness to resume operations, we have concluded that PRASA is not ready to resume with the Metrorail commuter service.  We continue to work closely with PRASA in assessing each line and put measures in place to achieve an acceptable level of readiness.

We have therefore revised our timelines in respect of the resumption of the Metrorail commuter service.  The revised target date is now 1 July 2020, on the following lines:

  • Pretoria to Pienaarspoort;
  • Cape Town to Simonstown;
  • East London to Berlin; and
  • Port Elizabeth to Uitenhage

Long distance trains remain prohibited.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

With the increase in the number of people returning to work and learners and students returning to institutions of learning, long distance public transport crossing Provincial, Metropolitan or District boundaries is permitted to operate.  The condition for such operation is that public transport vehicles are only permitted to transport persons permitted to travel between Provinces in terms of the Regulations.  Such travel is only restricted to:

  • Perons undertaking work responsibilities or performing a service permitted under Alert Level 3, provided they are in possession of the requisite permit.
  • Persons moving to a new place of residence;
  • Persons caring for an immediate family member;
  • Learners or students who have to commute to and from those schools or institutions of higher learning during periods when those schools or institutions are permitted to operate.
  • Attendance of funerals;
  • Transportation of mortal remains;
  • Obtaining medical treatment;
  • Persons returning to their place of residence from a quarantine or isolation facility;
  • Movement of children; and
  • Members of Parliament performing oversight responsibilities.

The time restrictions on all road-based public transport modes are lifted.  Public transport will now be allowed to operate throughout the day.  However, capacity restrictions remain:

  • Minibus-taxis remain at 70% loading capacity;
  • Buses must adhere to a maximum loading capacity of 50%, taking due regard of standing passengers;
  • eHailing and Metred Taxis remain at 50% loading capacity
  • Shuttle, Chauffer and Charter services remain at 50% loading capacity.

DRIVERS’ LICENCE TESTING CENTRES, VEHICLE TESTING CENTRES AND PROVINCIAL REGULATORY ENTITIES

All Drivers’ Licence Testing Centres (DLTCs), Vehicle Testing Centres (VTCs) and Provincial Regulatory Entities (PREs) will resume their operations on 1 June 2020, subject to strict application of health norms and standards and their ability to pass the assessment on their state of readiness test conducted by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC).

CONCLUSION

We remain guided by the Risk-adjusted approach of government and have taken a cautious approach to the measures easing the lockdown effects on transport. We will further continue with our engagement with the stakeholders within the transport sector to find solutions to the difficult task at hand of balancing the competing interests and preservation of lives and supporting livelihoods.

MINISTER OF HIGHER EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION STATEMENT ON THE MEASURES TO PHASEOUT THE LOCKDOWN AND PHASING IN OF PSET STRATEGIC FUNCTIONS
30 April 2020

Programme Director Minister Mthembu;
Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga;
Deputy Minister Buti Manamela,
Senior Managaement from DHET and DBE
Members of the media
All our stakeholders in the PSET Sector (USAf, SACPO, SAUS, Labour union;
Students and parents

Fellow South Africans

As you know, South Africa has entered into “uncharted territory” in confronting the spectre of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are drawing on our long history of struggle against adversity to overcome this unprecedented challenge.

Like all the other sectors in our society, we have been forced to take immediate and drastic measures to contain the spread of the virus and ensure our students and staff are protected.

The essence of our challenge can be put thus: We are constrained by the very same challenges we seek to address, poverty inequality and unemployment. The very problems we seek to solve are the obstacles standing on our way.

From the moment the President declared the COVID-19 pandemic to be a national disaster on Sunday 15 March, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, in conjunction with institutions, have put all our post-school educational institutions on early recess, and effectively suspended academic activity.

Today, the Ministry will be announcing measures in the context of the national COVID-19 measures announced by the Command Council on Wednesday, 29 April, 2020. All the measures to be identified herein follow within the strategic logic of the national COVID-19 strategy, and is informed by three (3) overarching considerations, as captured in our thematic focus: #Save the academic year. #Save lives.

Firstly, whatever we do in the PSET sector, our responsibility is to lower the infection curve. Secondly, we must save the 2020 academic year, but not at the expense of lives. Thirdly, our efforts to save the academic year must avoid worsening the infection curve.

We will be implementing a risk adjusted strategy for the entire PSET sector based on the national COVID-19 protocols, and will direct and manage the way institutions carry out their academic mandates at all times within this strategic and policy framework.

2020 Academic Year

Guided by the work and decisions of the National Command Council, we have decided not to resume with campus-based academic activity throughout the PSET sector, including all Universities and TVET Colleges, both public and private, during the Level Four (4) lockdown period.

The only exception will be the controlled return of final year Clinical Training (medical) students, under strict conditions, to also directly assist with the health management campaign of the Department of Health.

The risks of a return to normal campus-based activity for thousands of students and staff are simply too great and cannot function successfully outside of the national context of a general lockdown. Universities and TVET Colleges do not operate in a vacuum, but in a historically-specific context.

Against this background and with the endorsement by the Command Council, we have decided that the current period, from 1 May until South Africa transitions into a lower COVID-19 risk phase, must be used to put a number of critical interventions in place across the PSET system.

This includes:

Developing and implementing effective multi-modal remote learning systems (digital, analogue and physical delivery of learning materials) to provide a reasonable level of academic support to all our students at all institutions to resume academic learning and teaching support. As we are in an unprecedented emergency, we have to use all available tools to reach our students fully cognisant that it will not substitute the need for contact learning when conditions permit. This we will do making sure that No student or institution is left behind;

Securing a universal access deal with the major Mobile Network Operators around data and connectivity to support remote learning; We believe we are close to reaching such a deal

Where physical delivery of learning materials are required and where no immediate digital means are ready, to ensure that students are provided with instructional materials;

Finalizing the procurement and distribution of devices (laptops) for all students and its connectivity into digital remote learning platforms. In this regard, I would like to appeal to all students to ensure that they urgently register their correct numbers with their institutions so that when we finalise the educational rate for data, we can load it to the correct number so that all students can benefit.

Strengthening our remote pedagogic teaching and learning models and sharing this across the TVET and University systems;

Securing possible relief/stimulus/emergency funding to our public institutions in distress, including critical areas of financial support that may be required;

forging a compact for an equitable economic transformation that will ensure the advancement of the economic position of women, youth and persons with disabilities and that which promote localisation and industrialisation of our economy.

Prepare all PSET campuses with deep cleaning and biosafety protocols to ensure readiness for eventual return of students and staff, and employing SMME’s and cooperatives, to this task.

Forging strong partnerships with both Departments of Health and Basic Education to coordinate all efforts to successfully and safely implement the 2020 academic year and phasing in of the 2021 academic year.

Our intention as a sector is to use this phase for planning and preparation at all our Universities and TVET Colleges, and the mobilization of resources. Our collective efforts during this period remains that of putting appropriate remote learning support systems in place for all our PSET institutions, using whatever means available, whilst preparing our institutional capacities for eventual return of students and staff once conditions permit such.

HIGHER HEALTH

When students return to campuses, protocols will be in place for the maintenance of physical distance, access to hand sanitisers and protective masks, and continual deep cleaning of facilities.

In addition, reopening will entail the 3600 screening/testing of staff and students, with environmental cleaning of campuses and residences. We are also identifying sites for quarantine facilities in or near our institutions as may be required.

We will also be providing mental health support and other forms of support necessary for staff and students throughout.

In a joint effort, HIGHER HEALTH supported by the Department of Health, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), USAf, SACPO and other organisations, we have developed a comprehensive and clear set of PSET guidelines on managing Covid-19 in the sector, post lockdown.

I therefore would like to take this opportunity to announce that these guidelines will be distributed formally to all universities, TVET and CET colleges and other sub-sectors for implementation.

NATIONAL STUDENT FINANCIAL AID SCHEME (NSFAS)

NSFAS funding for all students will continue while the academic year is underway.

The likely extension of the academic year will require additional funding to maintain allowances for students while they complete the academic year. As a Department, we are therefore working with NSFAS, in modelling these costs.

Given the fact that all our universities have already disbursed learning materials allowances to their NSFAS supported students, I would like to urge our student who have not as yet utilized their allowance to use their allowances to purchase appropriate electronic learning devices to support their learning during this time.

UNIVERSITIES

The 2020 academic year will be re-organised to enable all our institutions and their students to complete academic requirements, with the prospects of extending into early 2021 depending on the epidemiology and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic threat.

The completion of the academic year 2020 and the start of academic year 2021 will be aligned with the plans of the Department of Basic Education in terms of the completion cycle of the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations, and the release of the NSC results.

Any plans to reopen universities for contact learning over coming months will necessarily have to be calibrated within national COVID-19 health and safety parameters, taking into account issues of physical distancing, biosafety, and other risks.

As a result of highly uncertain and fluid social context imposed by the viral threat on every aspect of South African society, it is not possible to determine with any measure of certainty the dates when physical return to campuses for the bulk of our students will be possible.

Until we reach that point, every effort is now being made to put in place multiple and flexible methods of teaching and learning to support all our institutions and all our students.

Within a national framework currently in place, each university will have to put plans in place to ensure its specific programmes, resources, and capacity are adequate to offer various forms of remote and flexible learning from the beginning of June 2020 until a full return to contact teaching and learning is feasible.

Our institutions will continue to offer training and support to academic staff and students in respect of the necessary technologies and mechanisms required to support teaching and learning.

The Department, assisted by the Centre for Industrial and Scientific Research (CSIR), is working on developing a Geospatial model to map the levels and quality of connectivity, bandwidth and distribution of learning and co-learning centres in various districts throughout South Africa, including municipal and other private facilities that might be used by students during this period. In addition, CSIR is modelling the ‘carrying capacity’ of our Universities and TVET colleges in the scenario where it would safe to return certain groups of students, and within the National Command Council COVID-19 regulatory parameters. I have indeed mobilized both my departments to support these efforts.

Once completed, this work should help us to better plan future normalization of activity on our campuses whilst in the current period being able to access, where appropriate, decentralised learning facilities in various districts for study purposes.

As a department we aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has created new significant financial pressure on universities.

One such aspect which incurred significant losses as a result of the lockdown, is the stalled infrastructure projects on our various campuses, including student residences.

To unblock this, Government has made a provision for controlled relaxation to enable stalled infrastructure projects to be resumed from the 1st May, subject to adherence to strict health protocols. In the interim, we urge our universities to negotiate reduced liability terms with contractors.

TECHNICAL AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING

For the Technical and Vocational Education and Training sector, the 2020 Academic Year will also be restructured in line with the continuity of the lockdown under Level Four (4) national protocols. This entails the need to restructure national examinations for the trimester, semester and full-year programmes.

To this end, our TVET Colleges will have to reorganize the academic year to enable students to complete trimesters 1 and 2 for Engineering Studies, both semesters for Business Studies, and the full- year NC(V) programmes.

Trimester 3, which should have taken place from August to November 2020, will be deferred to a date to be determined after consultation with stakeholders. This is to ensure that students are adequately prepared for the examinations.

A calendar detailing the commencement and end of classes, the examination sessions, as well as the short recess period will be released.

In acknowledgement of the fact that almost all TVET college students do not have devices to work online, and furthermore do not have access to data, various other support initiatives have been explored to support students remotely, whilst simultaneously working on acquiring devices for all NSFAS students.

Radio and TV broadcasts have already begun in key subjects, and are in the process of being expanded, and will continue for 6 months.

The use of textbooks, e-Guides, past question papers, and uploaded YouTube videos, are strongly advocated and supported through bulk sms-es from colleges and WhatsApp groups set up by lecturers.

All these broadcasts and additional resources are available on the Department of Higher Education and Training website for ready and continuous access by students.

COMMUNITY EDUCATION AND TRAINING

Like all our PSET institutions, for the Community Education and Training sector, the resumption of teaching and learning will be staggered in accordance with revised academic calendar.

Priority will be given to students doing the General Education and Training Certificate: Adult Basic Education and Training (GETC: ABET) and the Senior Certificate in preparation for sitting for the October/ November 2020.

The lower level classes, (AET 1-3) will resume on a later date aligned to the phasing in of grades in the school system.

We have postponed the writing of CET May/June General Education and Training Certificate: Adult Basic Education and Training examinations which were supposed to commence on the 20th May 2020, with all the candidates who were supposed to write the examinations to sit for their examinations at the end of the year.

To recoup the number of days lost during lockdown, the number of College holidays will be reduced for June and September 2020.

In this regard, a revised academic calendar will be issued to CET Colleges indicating the increased number of tuition days. We will engage with organised labour in the implementation of these measures.

Given that the majority of centres operate from schools, our CET academic calendar will be aligned with that of Department of Basic Education.

In tandem with the resumption of teaching and learning, I appeal to faith based organisations, churches, traditional leaders, NGOs and community leaders to be open to engagements with the Department and CET colleges on the utilisation of their infrastructure for CET tuition and examinations.

SKILLS DEVELOPMENT AND TRAINING

Our Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) working with all these social partners will ensure that during the months of May-June learners are returning to the workplaces and training institutions in line with their gradual opening as per Level 4 guidelines.

I have extended the due date for the submission of the Workplace Skills Plans (“WSP”) Annual Training Reports (“ATR”) by the employers which are submitted on 30 April every year, to 31 May 2020 in the light of the nationwide lockdown.

I have issued a Directive to all Sector Education and Training Authorities to continue with the payment of learner stipends during the nationwide lockdown period.

We are also implementing measures at INDLELA, where our trade tests are conducted, at the main security entrance, to limit the risk of infections to all those who are entering the premises in strict compliance with the COVID-19 protocols and requirements.

In the same vain, the National Skills Fund (NSF) will be engaging the public and private Skills Development Providers (“SDPs”) on the dates and modalities of resuming learning as soon as such decisions are made.

As a department, following a request by NEHAWU and working together with them, the NICD, as well as the Health and Welfare & ETDP SETAs, we are developing a concrete plan on the training of various categories of frontline workers, particularly those working in our health facilities and other industries, as part of the COVID-19 awareness campaign.

In this regard I am happy to announce that funding has been set aside for the training of almost 18 000 (actual figure is 17 750) frontline health workers, the leadership and membership of trade unions, the shop stewards and other workers who are dealing with Occupational Safety and Health (OSH), within the context of COVID-19.

This training will take the form of information sharing sessions, as well as technical sessions, targeted at the above-mentioned groups. All these sessions will be online to ensure maximum coverage and reach.

The training will also cover workers on night duty. In addition, and working with the Department of Social Development, 1210 unemployed social workers will be recruited and placed on a 12-month internship, to work with our communities to tackle social distress and other psycho-social challenges facing households and communities during this difficult period.

CONCLUSION

The extraordinary measures that we are announcing today to ensure a contingency plan is in place during Phase Four (4) lockdown, have been enriched by the extraordinary contributions received from many South Africans, including our sector stakeholders which includes the Universities South Africa (USAf), the South African Principals Organisation, the South African Union of Students, Labour unions, student political formations, political parties, religious formations and non-governmental organisations, academics and scientists. We pay tribute to them.

I would like to thank all of you. Your inputs remain valuable to us and South Africa in general.

As a Ministry and a department we will be constantly communicating with all our stakeholders and the entire nation through multiple platforms of communication on any developments within the sector in an ongoing manner.

I thank you

Media briefing by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Level 3 in line with the Risk-based approach to contain the Spread of COVID-19

Colleagues;
Members of the fourth estate;
Compatriots.

84 days have lapsed since the first reported case of COVID-19 on our shores. From that day onwards, led by the steady hand of the President, we have put in place measures to contain the spread of the virus and save lives. These measures have been coordinated by Cabinet with the advice and inputs of the various Command Councils in all our spheres of governance.

All these levels and spheres have greatly benefitted from inputs of various experts and scientists, including those that serve in the Minister of Health’s Advisory Committee on the Coronavirus.

Our efforts have also been directed by consultations we have had with various sectors and constituencies in our country including the local government, traditional leaders, religious sector, NEDLAC and the private sector.

We have also benefitted from the overwhelming support we have received from all South Africans.

Ordinary South Africans from all walks of life, political persuasions, religious conviction and cultural backgrounds from all races and classes have largely heeded our call to stay at home, practice hygiene measures such as washing of hands and maintaining a safe social distance. These simple but effective measures are the most important ammunition in our fight against COVID-19, in the absence of a cure or vaccine.

We have also been encouraged by the reignition of solidarity and activism by millions of South Africans, who through acts of kindness have ensured that those who are less fortunate are fed, cared for and have access to masks and sanitizers. Indeed, we have confirmed ourselves as a great and resilient nation. The measure of a great nation is how it treats the weakest and not the strongest, as once said by Madiba.

Thanks to your sacrifices and contributions we have managed to flatten the curve, but the peak of the curve remains in the horizon. As we migrate the country into Alert Level 3, as announced by the President, we must redouble our efforts so as to further contain and prevent deaths.

These next phases of our fight and Level 3 allows us to open up all the productive sectors of our economy, al be it to a moderate degree in some high-risk sectors. This risk level, thanks to the employ of the Risk Adjusted Strategy allows us to maintain the delicate balancing act between saving the lives and livelihoods of South Africans.

It also requires greater responsibility and discipline from all us as citizens of this resilient nation.

Consequently, at this alert level everyone who enters a work, public space and/or public transport must wear a cloth face mask or a homemade item that covers the nose and mouth. We must also ensure that all our public facilities have sanitisers and that all patrons are screened.

These coming phases also confirm prevention as a corner stone of our response. It is only healthy communities and individuals that can drive our recovery plan, on the other side of the infection curve. We must also remain cognisant of the ever-present danger of reversing the gains we have thus far recorded. “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”, to quote the President.

Compatriots, as we have said before, our Risk Adjusted Strategy is also based on a combination of sound and scientific advice and benchmarking against international experience. Countries such as Vietnam have inspired our approach to eventually reduce the numbers of infection and curb the loss of lives. To paraphrase Che Guevarra, we must aim to have at least as many Vietnams as we have provinces and districts. Thus, in the employ of the Risk Adjusted strategy we have subjected each province and district or metro to its own level of the risk alert system. This will assist us in mounting coordinated and targeted interventions, especially in the deployment of our limited resources.

Nonetheless, as per the announcement of the President, we will move the whole of South Africa to Risk Level 3, which implies certain adjustments to our Level 4 Regulations. However, our state of national lockdown continues, until such time we have flattened the curve for a sustained period.

In this regard, our differentiated approach and risks levels will be directed by the advice we will receive from the Minister of Health and inputs from the WHO, ministerial advisory committee, experts and various cabinet ministers. These levels are applicable “at a provincial level and … to all metropolitan areas and districts within that province, unless a different alert level is explicitly determined… as a hotspot”.

So far, we have only identified potential hotspots, and we are doing all we can to change the fortune of these areas. In the event that our collective efforts bear little or no fruits, such an area will require added efforts including subjecting it to higher level restrictions including the limiting of movements within and to and from a hotspot.

In the areas that are not hotspots we will allow movements within the district and localities. We will permit movement only to and from work, as well as to buy or obtain available goods, services and medical attention. Limitations on movement across provinces and now between metropolitan areas and districts and hotspots is prohibited, except for persons travelling for purposes of starting work; moving to a new residence; or caring for an immediate family member. Provided such persons have the relevant permits.

Given that schools will open in phased approach, we will also open travel in between provinces and districts for pupils, students and teaching staff.

As said by the President we will lift the curfew and allow more time for exercising, walking, and cycling. However, this is permitted so long as this is not done in organized groupings. In this regard, health protocols and social distancing must be strictly observed.

Public training, fitness and recreation facilities remain closed except those conducting non-contact sports matches, without spectators. The Minister of Arts, Culture and Sports will elaborate on this.

Workplace gatherings for work purposes will be permitted under strict conditions and the observance of health, hygiene and social distancing protocols. Employers must ensure that the 1.5 metres distance is maintained amongst employees. We will have to limit the number of people in the workplaces, so that we minimise the chance of infection.

In minimising the chances of infection, on site consumption places for food, entertainment and recreation will remain closed. These include places such as restaurants, shebeens, taverns, night clubs, bars, cinemas, theatres, fêtes, bazaars; casinos; and similar places.

As will hotels, lodges, bed and breakfasts, timeshare facilities and resorts and guest houses, remain closed, except those that are accommodating remaining and confined tourists, persons lodging as a result of work purposes; and persons in quarantine or isolation. The various ministers will elaborate on these aspects especially the Minister of Tourism.

With regards to funerals. At Level 3 we will continue to limit interprovincial travel for the purposes of attending funerals. Those permitted to travel are legal spouses or partners of the deceased; children or grandchildren of the deceased, whether biological, adopted or stepchildren; children-in-law of the deceased; parents of the deceased whether biological, adopted or stepparents; siblings, whether biological, adopted or stepbrothers or sisters of the deceased; and/or grandparents of the deceased.

Indeed, the virus, has challenged our ways as a society and our various cultures.

This is a time when we should all join in meditation, fellowship and prayer. Consequently, we will have a national-day-of-prayer, on Sunday, as announced by the President. This day must be observed in the comfort of your homes or through virtual means.

We have also widely consulted with the religious sector and are now in a position to categorise religious counselling as an essential services. This will enable the millions who have been affected by the virus, to receive this much needed service, since the majority cannot afford professional attention of this nature.

We will also permit religious gatherings such as church services as of June 1, so long as health, hygiene and social distancing is observed. This means that we must maintain 1.5metres between the maximum of 50 congregants, should the chosen venue be able to accommodate such. We must all be wearing masks when we attend our places of worship, and the washing of hands or sanitization should be undertaken prior to worship.

Our places of worship must be sanitized, and the screening of participants is mandatory. The issued directions elaborate on the other protocols that should be observed.

Our lived experiences have shown funerals as high COVID-19 transmission vessels. Consequently, we will continue to limit the number of funeral attendees to 50. Provided the transportation, hygiene, health and social distancing protocols and guidelines are observed. The station commanders of all our police stations a charged with the duty to keep meticulous records with regards to the funerals and number of attendees.

Recent experiences particularly in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo show that interprovincial travel has contributed to community transmissions. Consequently, travel between our provinces remains prohibited with the exception of those in possession of permits to attend funerals or conduct essential services and level 3 functions in between our provinces and districts. Which forms are available as an attachment to the regulations we publish today.

Our international ports of entry remain closed except for those designated by the Minister of Home Affairs to undertake (a) the transportation of fuel cargo and goods; and (b) humanitarian operations, repatriations, evacuations, medical emergencies, movements for diplomatic and international organisations and staff and other exceptions.

The Minister of Home Affairs will also elaborate on the category of persons allowed to undertake international travel under exceptional circumstances these include those returning to work, study or residence here and abroad. Suffice to say, this category of persons will be expected to adhere to strict entry and exit protocols which include screening, quarantine or isolation, sanitisation, social distancing and the wearing of masks.

In order to ensure smooth movement of employees and as a measure to carefully and gradually open our economy we will also permit a limited domestic air travel service. The Minister of Transport will soon announce and attach relevant directions in this regard as well as in relation to across country and interprovincial cargo which is also currently permitted. Suffice to say current regulations, directions, guidelines and health protocols will be strengthened so as to factor in the increased and gradual return to work of many more people.

Amongst those returning to work are all public servants, with the exception of those who have permission to conduct work from home from time to time and those that are older than 60 or carry with them comorbidity conditions. Our message remains the same — work from home if you can, wash your hands, and maintain a safe 1.5 metre social distance from the next person. The Minister of Public Services and Administration has issued a circular in this regard.

This provision also means that local governments can and will operate close to full operation. Consequently, council meetings and gatherings can resume with strict social distancing, hygiene and health measures. Directions in this regard will be issued.

Given the potential for further transmissions, we will continue to prohibit public engagements such as iZimbizo and IDP consultations and limit them to virtual, electronic and broadcast platforms as we are currently doing.

The various associations and businesses have also developed industry specific guidelines. However, recent experiences, particularly in the mining sector, direct us to strengthen these, in consultation with the various industries.

Compatriots, when we embarked on this journey, we did say it would not be smooth sailing. We have had to adjust our plans as we gained and gathered more experience.

COVID-19 has hit hard on all South Africans, particularly those who are vulnerable and homeless. We have mounted a response. But we cannot afford to have many more in the streets. To this end, we will continue to prohibit the eviction of tenants during level 3.

However, given that rental income is also an important livelihood stream for some, we have inserted the possibility for a competent court to grant an eviction order provided it is just and equitable.

The sale of tobacco, tobacco products, e-cigarettes and related products remains prohibited, except when they are destined for the export market.

The sale of liquor in licensed premises will now be permitted as of the 1st of June 2020, for the limited period between Mondays and Thursdays from 09h00 and 17h00. However, onsite consumption is prohibited, and e commerce sales will be permitted subject to the same onsite trade days and times. The Minister of Trade, Industry and Competitions will elaborate in this regard, suffice to say no special or events liquor licenses will be issued for the duration of the state of national disaster.

In opening our economy, we must maintain a firm eye on our goal of flattening the curve and minimising the rates of infections and deaths. We must remain conscious of the ever-present danger that we can quickly reverse our gains if we act too hastily and irresponsibly. To this end, the operating sectors of our economy must pay attention to strict, health, hygiene and social distancing measures. Workplaces must employ extra ordinary measures to protect our citizens. We must therefore minimise the number of workers at the workplace at any given time, and also encourage remote working.

We must also secure the livelihoods of our citizens. The social and economic measures we have implemented, have at times not fully reached the intended recipients. Through collaboration and conceited actions, we will better target our interventions, so that we see a brighter and better South Africa, beyond the virus.

All the measures we have implemented are difficult, but necessary. We must endure today so as to secure the future of this beautiful nation.

Morena boloka Sechaba sa heso!!

BRIEFING BY MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL COMMAND COUNCIL ON COVID-19 LOCKDOWN EXTENSION

Ministers of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola will today , 16 April 2020 brief the nation on regulations pertaining to the extension of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Members of the media are invited to a virtual media briefing as per the details below:

Date: Thursday , 16 April 2020

Time: 12h30

Media Participation: Journalists may view the briefing via live streaming on the SA Government Facebook page, Twitter and YouTube channels on the links below.

Facebook: http://facebook.com/GovernmentZA

Twitter: http://twitter.com/GovernmentZA

YouTube: http://youtube.com/GovernmentZA

For interaction, journalists may call and pose their questions using the following number: 0800 142 446.

SABC will provide pool feed as follows:

– Downlink Frequency 12649.5
– Symbol Rate: 2.7 M/Sym
– Hd 10801 25 H.264 4:2:0
– Rollof factor 5%
– DVB- S2 8psk
– Audio Channel 1 256kbs

Enquiries: Mr William Baloyi 083 390 7147

Issued by Government Communication and Information System

16 April 2020

MINISTER OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT SENDS DIRECTION FOR AMENDMENT OF SHARED CUSTODY REGULATIONS DURING LOCKDOWN

In support of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of COVID-19 as a national disaster, the Minister of Social Development – Ms Lindiwe Zulu, issued directions prohibiting movement of children between co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights on 30 March 2020.

This was as an effort to address, prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19 in terms of Section 10 (5) of the Regulations of Disaster Management and to ensure that the children’s wellbeing is protected and their best interests upheld during the lockdown.

“This prohibition of movement was never intended to limit or prohibit contact with the child/ children or to punish parents as the Department believes in family strengthening and preservation. According to the Children’s Act, 2005 (Act No. 38 of 2005), the Department of Social development is responsible for the protection of children and promotion of their rights. However, the implementation of the directions brought an outcry to the co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights,” said Minister Zulu.

To ensure that rights and concerns of co-holders of parental responsibilities are considered, Minister Lindiwe Zulu issued a directive to amend the regulations on 7 April 2020.

The amendment of the directions 6(m)(i) and (ii) issued on the 30 March 2020 reads as follows:

6 (m)  Directions to contain the spread of COVID-19 in exercising the care and contact by persons who are co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights or a caregiver during the lockdown period

(i)          Movement of children between co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights or a caregiver, as defined in the Children’s Act,2005 (Act No. 38 of 2005) during the lockdown period, is prohibited, except where arrangements are in place for a child to move from one parent to another, in terms of-

(aa) a court order; or

(bb) where a parental responsibilities and rights’ agreement or parenting plan, registered with the family advocate is in existence –

provided that there is no person who is known or reasonably suspected to have come into contact with any other person known or reasonably suspected to have contracted COVID-19 in the household which the child has to move to.

(ii)         The court order or the agreement referred to in sub-paragraph (bb) or a certified copy thereof must be in the possession of the parent or caregiver transporting the child concerned.

These changes aim to ensure that the existing parenting plans, made an order of the court and those registered with the Family Advocate’s office, are implemented whilst exercising precautionary measures that will prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection whilst promoting the best interests of the child/children.

“As the Minister of Social Development, I hope that these changes are welcomed and respond to the outcry by the co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights, the caregivers,” concluded Minister Zulu.

Essential services, and those that support them, will continue to provide the necessities of life for everyone during the lockdown period.

This means that food, medicine, healthcare, energy, fuel, essential municipal services, internet and banking services will continue to be available.

During the lockdown, anyone not working in essential services must stay at home and stop all physical interactions with others outside of your household.

If you’re unsure whether your business provides essential services, you should close for the duration of the lockdown. We need as many businesses as possible to close to slow the spread of the virus.

If your business is considered essential, you must operate in a way that minimises the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Businesses should:

  • minimise, or eliminate if possible, physical interactions among staff and with and between customers
  • ensure appropriate health, hygiene and safety measures are in place
  • restrict activity to only what is essential during this period

If you have any queries about what an essential service is and if it applies to your sector, you can get in touch with lockdownexemptions@thedtic.gov.za or call 0861 843 348 or 012 394 9500 for advice regarding your specific business.

What are essential goods and services?

Essential goods and services are those listed in terms of the regulations issued by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs under the Disaster Management Act.

These include the following:

GOODS

  1. Food
    1. Any food product, including non-alcoholic beverages;
    2. Animal food; and
    3. Chemicals, packaging and ancillary products used in the production of any food product.
  1. Cleaning and Hygiene Products
    1. Toilet Paper, sanitary pads, sanitary tampons, condoms;
    2. Hand sanitiser, disinfectants, soap, alcohol for industrial use, household cleaning products, and personal protective equipment;
    3. Chemicals, packaging and ancillary products used in the production of any of the above;
    4. Products for the care of babies and toddlers; and
    5. Personal toiletries, including haircare, body and face washes, roll-ons, deodorants, toothpaste.
  2. Medical Products
    1. Medical and Hospital Supplies, medicine, equipment and personal protective equipment; and
    2. Chemicals, packaging and ancillary products used in the production of any of the above.
  1. Fuel, including coal, wood and gas
  2. Basic goods, including airtime, electricity and the withdrawal of cash.

SERVICES

  1. Medical, Health (including Mental Health), Laboratory and Medical services and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases;
  2. Disaster Management, Fire Prevention, Fire Fighting and Emergency services;
  3. 3.1 (a) The following services necessary to maintain the functioning of a financial system as defined in section 1(1) of the Financial Sector Regulation Act, only when the operation of a place of business or entity is necessary to continue to perform those services:
  1. the banking environment (including the operations of mutual banks, cooperative banks, co-operative financial institutions and the Postbank);
  2. the payments environment;
  3. the financial markets (including market infrastructures licensed under the Financial Markets Act, 2012 (Act No. 19 of 2012);
  4. the insurance environment;
  5. the savings and investment environment;
  6. pension fund administration;
  7. outsourced administration;
  8. medical schemes administration; and
  9. additional designated services.

(b) The services listed in paragraph (a) may not be construed to include debt collection services.

    1. Services necessary for the provision of social grants.
  1. Production and sale of essential goods;
  2. Grocery stores and wholesale produce markets, including spaza shops and informal food traders, with written permission from a municipal authority to operate being required in respect of informal food traders;
  3. Electricity (including vital demand management services), water, gas and fuel production, supply and maintenance;
  4. Critical jobs for essential government services as determined by Head of National or Provincial Departments in accordance with the guidance of the Department of Public Service and Administration, including Social Grant Payments and pension payments;
  5. Birth and death certificates, and replacement identification documents;
  6. Essential municipal services;
  7. Care services and social relief of distress provided to older persons, mentally ill, persons with disabilities, the sick, and children;
  8. Funeral and cremation services, including mortuaries services and the transportation of mortal remains;
  9. Wildlife Management, Anti-poaching, Animal Care and Veterinary services;
  10. Newspaper, broadcasting and telecommunication infrastructure and services, including call centres critical for the support of such services;
  11. Production and sale of any chemicals, hygiene products, pharmaceuticals for the medical or retail sector;
  12. Cleaning, sanitation, pest control, sewerage, waste and refuse removal services;
  13. Services related to the essential functioning of courts, judicial officers, the Master of the High Court, Sheriffs and legal practitioners required for those services;
  14. Essential SARS services defined by the Commissioner of SARS;
  15. Police, peace officers, traffic officers, military medical personnel and soldiers, correctional services officials and traffic management services;
  16. Postal services and courier services related to transport of medical products;
  17. Private security services;
  18. Air-traffic Navigation, Civil Aviation Authority, air charters, Cargo Shipping and dockyard services;
  19. Gold, gold refinery, coal and essential mining;
  20. Accommodation used for persons rendering essential services, quarantine, isolation and the lockdown;
  21. Production, manufacturing, supply, logistics, transport, delivery, critical maintenance and repair in relation to the rendering of essential services including components and equipment;
  22. Transport services for persons rendering essential services and goods, and transportation of patients;
  23. Services rendered by the Executive, members of Parliament, Members of the Provincial Legislature, Members of Local Councils, the Judiciary, traditional leaders and National Office Bearers of Political Parties represented in Parliament;
  24. Commissioners of the South African Human Rights Commission, Gender Commission, and the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, and the Public Protector and Deputy Public Protector; and
  25. Transport and logistics in respect of cargo and goods as set out in Part A to neighbouring countries;
  26. Tow trucks and vehicle recovery services;
  27. Call centres necessary to provide health, safety, social support, government and financial services;
  28. Harvesting and storage activities essential to prevent the wastage of primary agricultural goods;
  29. Implementation of payroll systems to the extent that such arrangement has not been made for the lockdown, to ensure timeous payments to workers; and
  30. Critical maintenance services which cannot be delayed for more than 21 days and are essential to resume operations after the lockdown.

Note: In terms of the definition in 11A, this is in addition to services as defined in –

(a) section 213 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (Act No. 66 of 1995); and

(b) designated in terms of section 71(8) of the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (and which designation remains valid as at the date of publication of this regulation).

Permission to operate as an essential service

Only companies permitted in terms of the lockdown regulations will be allowed to continue operating through the period. Companies are encouraged to register as an essential service with the CIPC at www.bizportal.gov.za, which will generate a certificate confirming their status as essential for the duration of the lockdown. This certificate itself is not sufficient to allow a company to continue operating – all companies must still comply with the regulations, and their certificate will be revoked if they provide false information or are not an essential service. Sole proprietors, healthcare providers registered with the HPCSA and others not governed by the CIPC need not register on the portal.

Essential personnel should be provided with a letter on a company letterhead confirming that they are providing an essential service.

In terms of section 11B of the Regulations:

“(2) The head of an institution must determine essential services to be performed by his or her institution, and must determine the essential staff who will perform those services: Provided that the head of an institution may delegate this function, as may be required in line with the complexity and size of the business operation.

(3) Persons performing essential services as determined in subregulation (2), must be duly designated in writing by the head of an institution.”

Additional decisions, clarifications and exemptions – updated 5pm, 2 April 2020

    • Call centres are permitted to operate if they support essential services, in terms of the amendments to the Regulations published on 26 March 2020.
    • Harvesting and storage of primary agricultural goods is permitted, in terms of the amendments to the Regulations published on 26 March 2020.
  • National Fresh Produce Markets are permitted to remain open, as they are essential to supply retail stores and informal food retailers in urban areas. The transport of fresh produce to formal and informal retailers is an essential service and therefore allowed. Recreational markets must remain closed.
  • There is no restriction on the sale of essential goods by spaza shops, including those operated by foreign nationals.
  • Effective hygiene measures must be followed at all grocery stores and supermarkets, including the provision of hand sanitiser and the maintenance of 1 m2 distance between customers at all times.
  • All South African ports remain open for port operations, and all cargo will be allowed passage at ports of entry to prevent bottlenecks and ensure the continuous supply of essential goods into the country. Non-essential goods will be transported to the nearest storage facility, including empty and full container depots,and dry and liquid bulk storage depots. Distribution of non-essential cargo will be carefully managed so as to limit the need for large numbers of employees to report for duty to transport these goods.
  • From 2 April 2020, informal food traders are permitted to operate on the condition that they have permission from a municipal authority.

Frequently asked questions

Which shops can remain open?

Retail stores, spaza shops and informal traders can remain open only where essential goods (such as food and medicine) are sold and on condition that the person in control of the store must ensure that customers keep a distance of at least 1 m2 from each other, and that all directions in respect of hygienic conditions and the exposure of persons to COVID-19 are adhered to.

Is the sale of liquor allowed?

No, liquor sales are strictly prohibited for the duration of the lockdown. This also applies to supermarkets with liquor licences. No liquor will be sold anywhere by anyone during the 21-day period of the lockdown. Equally, the movement of liquor between any two points is also strictly prohibited as per the COVID-19 Disaster Management Regulations.

Which accommodation facilities may remain open?

During the lockdown period, the following categories of establishments can remain open:

  • Those providing accommodation for international tourists who must remain in their hotels and persons providing essential services to these hotels.
  • Those who have been approved by the Department of Health as appropriate quarantine facilities.

No other accommodation establishments may continue to operate during the lockdown period.

Are car rentals an essential service?

No, car rental companies are not permitted to operate during the lockdown period. However, e-hailing services may be used for permitted activities (such as transporting essential workers or for the purchase of essential goods) on the condition that they carry only 50% of the capacity of the vehicle.

Will public transport remain in operation?

During the lockdown period, minibus taxis and buses may transport essential services workers and passengers who need to travel for groceries, medical treatment, medication or to access banking services. Minibus taxis may carry a maximum of 70% of their capacity. This means that a 15-seater minibus may carry 10 passengers, and a 10-seater minibus may carry 7 passengers. Taxis are required to provide hand sanitisers, and to sanitise their vehicles before picking up any passengers.

Are childcare services and childminders available?

Early Childhood Development centres closed on 18 March 2020, and childcare services are not included in the list of essential services to prevent a large number of people travelling to work. Parents/caregivers are advised to make alternative care arrangements during this period.

Are restaurants and take-away outlets open?

No, restaurants and take-away outlets will remain closed for the duration of the lockdown.

Can I have groceries delivered to my home?

Yes, grocery delivery services are permitted to operate – but they may not deliver prepared food.

We all have a part to play in fighting the spread of the virus.

  • The national lockdown strengthens our fight to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
  • All South Africans will have to stay at home from 27 March to 16 April 2020.
  • You can only be outside of your home to acquire food, essential goods or while seeking medical attention.
  • The movement between provinces, metropolitan and district areas is prohibited.
  • All gatherings are banned expect for funerals which is limited to 50 people. No night vigils will be allowed.
  • No liquor will be sold during the 21-day period of the lockdown.
  • The movement of liquor is strictly prohibited.
  • All borders will be closed except for the transportation of food and essential goods.
  • All foreign tourists who arrived prior to or after the lockdown are to remain in their place of temporary residence.

Essential services keeps our nation functioning.

  • Essential services are services that if interrupted would endanger the life, health or personal safety of the population.
  • It includes the provision of basics such as food, medicine, healthcare, energy and fuel to be available.
  • Essential businesses, and those suppliers that support them will continue to remain open as part of essential services.
  • Government services such as the provision of birth and death certificates, and replacement of ID documents are also available.
  • It ensures the municipal services such as waste-removal and sanitation are provided.
  • The police, security and emergence services, and the courts are also an essential service.

 People exempted from the lockdown are all those working in the essential services.

  • They include the following categories:
  • Pharmaceutical, Medical, Health, Laboratory Services.
  • Disaster Management and Emergence Services.
  • Financial Services.
  • Producers of food and essential products including hygiene products.
  • Grocery stores and spaza shops.
  • Energy, water, gas and fuel production supply and maintenance.
  • Essential government services.
  • Birth and death certificates, and replacement of ID documents
  • Essential municipal services.
  • Care services to the vulnerable.
  • Funeral services, including mortuaries.
  • Media and telecoms services.
  • Sanitation and refuse removal services.
  • Courts and judicial officers.
  • Police and security services.
  • Postal services and the courier of medical products.
  • Transport of people rendering essential services.
  • Transport and logistics of essential goods.

A full list of essential services under the State of Disaster Lockdown Regulations can be found here: http://www.cogta.gov.za/?p=7822

The transportation of essential goods and workers providing essential services is allowed.

  • Buses, minibus taxis, private cars and e-hailing services will be allowed to transport essential services workers between 5am – 9am and 4pm and 8pm.
  • These vehicles must not carry more than 50 per cent of the licenced capacity and limit the exposure of persons to COVID-19.
  • All long-distance passenger rail services, both public and private, will stop operations for the duration of the lockdown.
  • All commuter rail services will shut down for the duration of the lockdown including Metrorail and Gautrain services.
  • All air and maritime passenger services are prohibited except for the transportation of essential cargo.
  • All cross-border road passenger movements will be prohibited for the duration of the lockdown.
  • Should your driver’s licence expire during the duration of the lockdown it shall be deemed to remain valid until the end of the lockdown.
  • A 14-day grace period will be granted for renewal of licences which expire during the lockdown.

What will be closed?

  • Public Parks
  • Swimming Pools and Beaches.
  • Fetes, flea markets and bazaars
  • Night clubs
  • Casinos
  • Taverns, Shebeens, Shisanyama
  • Only grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open in shopping malls.
  • Religious, cultural and sporting venues.

 What remains open or still operating?

  • Supermarkets
  • Food shops
  • Pharmacies
  • Hospitals
  • Petrol stations
  • Post offices
  • Banks
  • JSE
  • Police
  • Military
  • Emergency services
  • Doctors
  • Security services
  • Courts

Do’s

  • Be reasonable and co-operate so we can beat this virus
  • Stay at home from 27 March to 16 April 2020.
  • If you go out to acquire food, essential goods or while seeking medical attention avoid contact with others wherever possible and make your trip as short as possible.
  • Obey all instructions by law enforcement officials.
  • Continue to report incidents of Gender Based Violence to 0800 150 150.
  • Continue to report all forms of crime to 10111.
  • Find creative ways to keep yourself occupied while in lockdown.
  • Use common sense and persuade others to do the same

 

Don’t

  • Do anything irresponsible that would risk your life as well as that of others.
  • Attempt to move between provinces, metropolitan and district areas.
  • Attempt to procure liquor or travel with liquor during the lockdown.
  • Attempt to renew your drivers licence during the lockdown.
  • Attempt to visit public parks, swimming pools and beaches.
  • Attempt to visit taverns, shebeens or shisanyamas.
  • Venture outside your house in groups.

From 11:59 pm on Thursday, 26 March 11:59 pm on Thursday 16 April, all South Africans will have to stay at home, unless strictly for the purpose of performing an essential service, obtaining an essential good or service, collecting a social grant, or seeking emergency, life-saving, or chronic medical attention

The lockdown comes into effect at midnight on the night of 26th.  In other words, the evening of Thursday 26th, the morning of Friday 27th March.

Yes, funerals will be allowed to take place with the number of mourners restricted to 50. However, night vigils will be prohibited.

No, movement between provinces is prohibited; and movement between the metropolitan and district areas, is prohibited.

All international and domestic flights are prohibited during the lockdown period.

International tourists must inform their respective embassy’s that they are still in South Africa and are not allowed to leave their hotel or accommodation establishments until such time their departure from South Africa has been confirmed.

The Minister of Transport has issued a special dispensation to allow countries to charter aircrafts, with crew, to repatriate their travelers who must make the necessary arrangements with their embassies and consulates.

We are aware that there are further logistical and regulatory issues that must be addressed for the repatriation of these travelers to run smoothly and efficiently. We will share these with you as soon as we get clarification from the relevant government departments.

Germany

The German Embassy has issued an important update to their travellers who are currently in South Africa.  They are requesting all German travellers to contact them regarding arrangements for specific departure flights from South Africa over the next couple of weeks.  The request is to update and confirm travel dates on www.rueckholprogramm.de as per instructions which you can find on www.southafrica.diplo.de

Switzerland

The Consulate General of Switzerland has announced that a repatriation flight is planned for departure from Cape Town International Airport to Zurich on 3 April 2020 at 19h30, local time.  Travellers from Switzerland must check the website of the Consulate General of Cape Town for additional information (www.eda.admin.ch/capetown).

A link is available on the site which will allow individuals to register for this flight. Registration must be done before Wednesday, 1 April, at 12h00 (noon) local time.

Please note: Individuals who have already contacted the General Consulate in Cape Town or the Embassy in Pretoria earlier and voiced their wish to return, should register again, in order to ensure the completeness of personal information and uniformity of data.

United Kingdom

The British High Commission is requesting all British Nationals to contact them with their location and the assistance they require by emailing SouthAfricaBritishNationalReturns@fco.gov.uk or registering on the following link https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/south-africa

United States of America

The US Embassy in South Africa has announced that it is arranging charter flights to evacuate United States of America travellers stranded in the country. The embassy has set up a registration website for US travellers who want to leave on an evacuation flight, at https://za.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information-2/

Retail shops and shopping malls must be closed, except where essential goods are sold and on condition that the person in control of the said store must put in place controls to ensure that customers keep a distance of at least one square meter from each other, and that all directions in respect of hygienic conditions and the exposure of persons to COVID-19 are adhered to.

Retail stores selling essential goods is prohibited from selling any other goods.

Any place not involved in the provision of an essential good or service must remain closed to all persons for the duration of the lockdown.

  • Food
    (i) Any food product, including non-alcoholic beverages;
    (ii) Animal food; and
    (iii) Chemicals, packaging and ancillary products used in the production of any food product.
  • Cleaning and Hygiene Products
    (i) Toilet Paper, sanitary pads, sanitary tampons, condoms;
    (ii) Hand sanitiser, disinfectants, soap, alcohol for industrial use, household cleaning products, and personal protective equipment; and
    (iii) Chemicals, packaging and ancillary products used in the production of any of the above.
  • Medical:
    (i) Medical and Hospital Supplies, equipment and personal protective equipment; and
    (ii) Chemicals, packaging and ancillary products used in the production of any of the above.
  • Fuel, including coal and gas
  • Basic goods, including airtime and electricity.
  • Products for care of babies and toddlers.
  • Personal toiletries, including hair care, body and face wash, roll-ons, deodorants, toothpaste

Categories of essential services shall be confined to the following services:

  1. Medical, Health (including Mental Health), Laboratory and Medical services;
  2. Disaster Management, Fire Prevention, Fire Fighting and Emergency services;
  3. Financial services necessary to maintain the functioning of the banking and payments environment, including the JSE and similar exchanges, as well as Insurance services;
  4. Production and sale of the goods listed in category A, above;
  5. Grocery stores, including spaza shops;
  6. Electricity, water, gas and fuel production, supply and maintenance;
  7. Critical jobs for essential government services as determined by Head of National or Provincial Departments in accordance with the guidance by the DPSA, including Social Grant Payments;
  8. Birth and death certificates, and replacement identification documents;
  9. Essential municipal services;
  10. Care services and social relief of distress provided to older persons, mentally ill, persons with disabilities, the sick, and children;
  11. Funeral services, including mortuaries;
  12. Wildlife Management, Anti-poaching, Animal Care and Veterinary services;
  13. Newspaper, broadcasting and telecommunication infrastructure and services;
  14. Production and sale of any chemicals, hygiene products, pharmaceuticals for the medical or retail sector;
  15. Cleaning, sanitation, sewerage, waste and refuse removal services;
  16. Services related to the essential functioning of courts, judicial officers, the Master of the High Court, Sheriffs and legal practitioners required for those services;
  17. Essential SARS services defined by the Commissioner of SARS;
  18. Police, peace officers, traffic officers, military medical personnel and soldiers, correctional services officials and traffic management services;
  19. Postal services and courier services related to transport of medical products;
  20. Private security services;
  21. Air-traffic Navigation, Civil Aviation Authority, Cargo Shipping and dockyard services;
  22. Gold, gold refinery, coal and essential mining;
  23. Accommodation used for persons rendering essential services, quarantine, isolation and the lockdown;
  24. Production, manufacturing, supply, logistics, transport, delivery, critical maintenance and repair in relation to the rendering of essential services including components and equipment;
  25. Transport services for persons rendering essential services and goods, and transportation of patients;
  26. Services rendered by the Executive, members of Parliament, Members of the Provincial Legislature, Members of Local Councils, the Judiciary, traditional leaders and National Office Bearers. of Political Parties represented in Parliament;
  27. Commissioners of the South African Human Rights Commission, Gender Commission, and the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, and the Public Protector and Deputy Public Protector; and
  28. Transport and logistics in respect of essential goods as set out in A above to neighbouring countries.
  29. Tow trucks and vehicle recovery services;
  30. Call centres necessary to provide health, safety, social support, government and financial services;
  31. Harvesting and storage activities essential to prevent the wastage of primary agricultural goods;
  32. Implementation of payroll systems to the extent that such an arrangement has not been made for the lockdown, to ensure timeous payments to workers; and
  33. Critical maintenance services which cannot be delayed for more than 21 days, and are essential to resume operations after the lockdown.

During the lockdown period, the following categories of establishments can remain open:

Those providing accommodation for international tourists who must remain in their hotels and persons providing essential services to these hotels.
Those who have been approved by the Department of Health as appropriate quarantine facilities.
No other accommodation establishments may continue operating during the lockdown period.

No, therefore will not be allowed to operate during lockdown period

No, the selling of liquor is strictly prohibited. This is applicable also to supermarkets with liquor licences. No liquor will be sold anywhere by anyone during the 21-day period of the lockdown. Equally, the movement of liquor between any two points is also strictly prohibited as per the COVID-19 Disaster Management Regulations.

As the Department of Employment and Labour, we are receiving concerns from workers and unions that some employers are seeking to shift the burden of the lockdown onto the workers, using their annual leave as the first line of response to the lockdown.

This despite the fact that we have said that the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) will fund and put in place systems to address the lay-offs during the lockdown in relation to workers registered for UIF.

It is important that all parties understand that the UIF cannot deal with millions of individual claims – this would lead to chaos. Rather we have put in place systems to pay out UIF benefits through companies, sectoral associations and bargaining councils. Indeed the Textile Bargaining Council has already concluded such an agreement with labour.

We need to stress that such arrangements require that we enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with employer bodies including that their use of the monies will be subject to audit. This has led to some resistance from some employers. They need to understand that these are public funds that by law have to be audited. None of us have a choice in the matter.

I urge all parties to get together and engage so that we can expedite the payment of these monies to the workers that need them. The UIF staff is available to assist in any way necessary. UIF Call Centre (012) 337 1997.

National Student Financial Aid Scheme Preventative Measures Against the Spread of COVID-19 

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will be implementing safety and precautionary measures to combat Covid-19 epidemic as per national government directive by the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, on Sunday, March 15, 2020. A follow-up briefing was held by various Department’s Ministers, including the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Dr Blade Nzimande outlining the impact, holistic measures and approach in support of the national plan. NSFAS has developed preventative measures to lower the risk of spreading the virus.

NSFAS is cognisant of the fact that students may be concerned that the current pandemic will affect the allocation of their funding. We can firmly confirm that NSFAS is implementing measures to ensure that payments and processing of applications is not affected. We will continue to focus on ensuring business continuity and adequate support for our stakeholders who require assistance during this time.

As from Tuesday 17 March, 2020 NSFAS staff members will be segmented into priority groups to lower human interaction at the NSFAS Wynberg (Cape Town) Head office, 50% of staff members will be required to report to the office and limit contact amongst each other. Although the NSFAS Contact Centre will be reducing the number of staff members the interaction on alternative platforms will be greatly strengthened.

Clients, students and applicants are encouraged to engage NSFAS on the online platforms prior to attempt to call the Contact Centre. The above strategy enables the organisation to continue the allocation of funding, protect staff members and their families, as well as the students.

The following alternative communication channels will be available from 08h30 to 17h00, Monday to Friday.

  • NSFAS Connect via MyNSFAS account
  • Email: info@nsfas.org.za
  • Facebook: National Student Financial Aid Scheme
  • Twitter: MyNSFAS
  • Instagram: MyNSFAS

For the foreseeable future, NSFAS will also limit local travel for all NSFAS employees. Government and business stakeholders will preferably be contacted using alternative channels of engagement as and when required. We will continue to communicate with the public through our online platforms to provide the latest funding progress updates.

In accordance with the pronouncement by the President on 15 March 2020, schools will be closed from 18 March 2020. Schools should resume on 14 April 2020; unless determined differently. Should this be the case communication will be sent to parents.

We are going to lose 10 school days as a result of the school closures. To compensate for lost days the June holidays will be cut short by a week. Once opened schools will be encouraged to extend tuition hours.

This directive is binding on all schools; public ordinary schools, independent schools and private.

A number of steps are being taken to ensure that education is not compromised. Each province, district, circuit and school must have a practical and comprehensive catch-up plan to be implemented.

  • Schools have been urged to give learners work they can do at home with the supervision of parents.
  • Schools are also encouraged to give learners workbooks and worksheets to be used to keep learners active in curriculum-based initiatives.
  • Parents must play their part in the education of their children.
  • The school enrichment programmes will also be affected by the arrangements. The Department of Basic Education will this week provide guidelines on how the school enrichment programmes are going to be managed because we want to ensure that those in matric, in particular, are not disadvantaged.

Basic Education postpones May/June exam rewrites due to Coronavirus COVID-19

Basic Education department postpones May/June rewrite matric examinations

The Department of Basic Education has postponed the May/June Amended Senior Certificate (old matric) and National Senior Certificate Examination.

This is the matric examination which was to be written by more than 350,000 part-time candidates who include those who did not meet the pass requirements in the 2019 final exams as well as those who sought to rewrite to improve their marks.

The Director-General of the Department of Basic Education Mr. Mathanzima Mweli has written a letter to the Heads of the Provincial Education Departments confirming the changes to the plan for the examinations.

“The advent of the Covid-19 virus has led to the early closure of schools during the first term and the declaration of a 21-day lockdown by the President of the Republic of South Africa, commencing from 26 March and concluding on 16 April 2020. The lockdown has since been extended until Thursday, 30 April 2020. This has resulted in a disruption to schooling and hence the writing of May/June 2020 examinations has to be re-scheduled,” said Mweli.

The May/June 2020 examination was scheduled to start on Monday, 4 May 2020 and conclude on Friday, 26 June 2020.

“At the HEDCOM meeting of 10 April 2020, it was agreed that the May/June examination should be merged with the November 2020 examination”, he said.

The details regarding the merged June and November examination will be communicated to you in due course. Candidates will be informed regarding registration, examination centers and time-tables.

The Department urges all candidates to continue their preparations. Learning and revision material has been made available on the Department website.

The Second Chance Matric Support Programme link on the website is still available to assist especially those who had been studying independently as part-time candidates.

Minister Angie Motshekga: State of readiness for the reopening of schools

Media Statement read by the Honourable Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP on Sunday, 7 June 2020

Good afternoon ladies and gentleman

We are addressing you today, more than two months after the national lockdown was introduced by His Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa on 27 March 2020.  We will recall that the national lockdown was not introduced to grind life in general to a sudden halt, but to reduce the rate of the novel Corona Virus infections in our country.

On Monday, 01 June 2020, at a media briefing in Rustenburg, we informed the South African public that the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) determined that the sector was a different levels of readiness; and required more time to mop-up its state of readiness for school resumption of schooling, in order to comply with the health, safety and social distancing measures and requirements on the Corona Virus.

We informed the public that, based on three critical reports presented to the CEM on 30 May 2020, CEM resolved that –

  • Provinces should mop-up the outstanding deliveries of Personal Protective Equipment, as well as the outstanding provision of water and sanitation to the schools;
  • The ongoing cleaning of schools, should be accelerated and finalised within the week of 01 June 2020;
  • Provinces should finalise the training of screeners, cleaners and volunteers for the national school nutrition programme (NSNP);
  • Teachers, whose schools have already received the PPE, will report for work on 01 June 2020, and prioritise the preparation of their schools to deal with the “new normal” brought about by the Corona Virus;
  • Teachers and support staff should be inducted and orientated on the new school environment brought about by the COVID-19;
  • In return, the teachers should induct, orientate and counsel the learners, who have already arrived at the schools, to deal with the new COVID-19 environments;
  • Learners in Grades 7 and 12 should resume schooling with effect from 08 June 2020; and
  • Processes related to independent schools, small schools and schools for learners with special education needs, should be managed with the representatives of these sectors.

It is gratifying to mention that indeed Provinces expended their energies to ensure that all prerequisites not yet fulfilled on 30 May 2020, were attended to during the mop-up week from 01 June 2020. Most important to also thank members of the public from different communities who stepped up to assist schools in their areas, the private sector that also made huge contributions to assist, sister departments especially the departments of safety, water and sanitation and the defense force that assisted the department greatly because in some areas good being transported to schools had to be escorted and the current capacity of the department has to be increased by other government departments and entities.  Last week, we had agreed with our partners to reconvene on Thursday, 04 June 2020 to continue to monitor and evaluate all outstanding compliance imperatives.  CEM met as planned, and the consultation meeting with our Sector partners was held yesterday (Saturday, 06 June 2020).  Both meetings agreed that the mop-up has drastically improved the national picture.

The meeting received a joint report from teachers unions, a report from the provincial education heads, Rand water e sou Ghs permissand the national consortium led by the National Education Trust. The NECT and Rand Water will  give highlights of their reports and have  since sought permissions to put to their reports on our website site

  • The number of provinces which were classified as low risk levels improved from two to six provinces.
  • The number of provinces classified as showing medium risk levels, has improved from the seven which were classified as medium risk (4) and high risk (3) on 30 May, to three provinces as on 03 June 2020.
  • Of course there are varieties among Provinces, which can be attributed to a variety of factors, including but not limited to vandalism in 1 672 schools;  interfering with the deliveries of essentials to schools; induction and orientation of educators and support staff, water and sanitation not yet provided to some schools, faulty thermometers, amongst other.

We can now say with confidence that about 95% of our schools have been ably provided with the COVID-19 related imperatives.  The Sector, with the assistance of our partners, will strive to deal with the remaining 5% to ensure that the unfettered rights to health, safety and basic education for all South African children are protected.  The golden rule is, there will be no school that will resume, if not ready to do so. For the remaining 5% or so learners alternative measures have been developed by different districts such as temporarily using neighboring schools, using underutilized spaces in boarding schools and putting other learners in camps. Because some of the alternatives need consultations with parents, provinces will be engaging parents and following the appropriate protocols to get parental concessions. All of this we agreed should be finalized during the course of the week and recovery programs be implemented.

We have since published the Directions in terms of the Regulations under the Disaster Management Act, 2002 – regarding the reopening of schools, and measures to address, prevent and combat the spread of the Corona Virus in the Basic Education Sector.  The Directions, as amended on 01 June 2020, do cater for deviations to the extent necessary, to be applicable to small schools, special schools, as well as independent and private schools.  They also cater for instances where parents may choose to keep their children at home fearing that their children could be infected by the COVID-19; or schools may not be ready to resume schooling.

We have solicited the support and assistance of the South African National Defence, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), and Mvula Trust to collaborate with the Department, Provinces and Rand Water to accelerate the provision of water and sanitation in outstanding schools.

We are cooperating with the Department of Transport to ensure that learner transport provided, does meet the health, safety and social distancing measures and requirements on COVID-19.  This will include scholar transport for learners with special education needs.

We are continuing to work with the Departments of Health and Social Development to ensure that health and psychosocial needs of the school communities are met.

Fellow South Africans, our migration into Alert Level 3 brought with itself a new set of Regulations; hence for the Basic Education Sector, we supplemented the Regulations with the Directions we published on Friday, 29 May 2020.  Because, from the outset, we concede that the Directions cannot be seen as static, we have already published amendments to the Directions on Monday, 01 June 2020 to cover eventualities not anticipation in the first publication.

As we continue our engagements, we will strengthen the Directions to the extent necessary.  Other than affirming health, safety and social distancing measures and requirements, the Directions upholds the phased reopening of public and independent schools, starting with Grades 7 and 12 on 01 June 2020; followed by a cluster of Grades on 06 July 2020; and the last cluster of Grades reopening on 03 August 2020.  We are in the process of revising the 2020 school calendar year, to accommodate the peculiarities’ brought by the novel COVID-19 pandemic.

We have and will continue to respond to the “new normal” by developing and implementing plans, which include regular and strict internal and external monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.  This, includes the reconfiguration of CAPS curriculum, the provision of timetabling options, the roll-out of the school nutrition programme.  We have institutionalised internal and external monitoring and evaluation; and we are providing detailed weekly reports to the Heads of Departments Committee (HEDCOM), the Council of Education Ministers (CEM), and to our critical stakeholders, including teacher unions, national school governing bodies associations; and the sector-based stakeholders, including national associations representing independent schools, as well as special schools.  Our external monitoring and evaluation is conducted by a consortium of researchers coordinated by the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), that also provide independent weekly reports on the state of readiness and compliance with the measures and requirements determined through the Directions and Regulations on COVID-19.

The challenges related to comorbidities among educators are being attended to.  An agreement with organised labour is about to be completed.  Standard Operating Procedures will be circulated among schools to ensure that schools are able to manage identified infections among educators, learners, educators and support staff.

Where practicably possible, learners from the “not-so-ready schools”, will be moved to neighbouring schools that meet the health, safety and social distancing set measures and requirements.  The teaching and learning programmes provided online will continue; and parents who are uneasy to send their children back to school, must follow the law to ensure that their children’s right to basic education is unhindered.

Today, we have the Members of the Executive responsible for Education present at this media briefing.  After the presentations from the consortium of researchers, Rand Water and that from the Heads of Education Departments Committee, the MECs will engage on the state of readiness of schools to resume schooling tomorrow, 08 June 2020.

Fellow South Africans, we wish to conclude by acknowledging the immeasurable and highly appreciated support, guidance and stewardship provided by His Excellency, the President, Cabinet and the National COVID-10 Command Council.  The support provided by the Department of Water and Sanitation, Rand Water, the Department of Health, National Treasury; and the recent involvement of the South African National Defence, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), the Department of Transport, and Mvula Trust is second to none.  Their involvement has accelerated our interventions in the provinces, especially the reach to the most rural and remote schools.  The resumption of schooling on Monday, 08 June 2020, is now more possible than a week ago.

We must also single out our parents, teachers and learners, who had to patiently endure the ill-effects of the abnormal 2020 school calendar year with us.  We can assure you that your anxieties are ours too; we too have spent the sleepless nights you spent.  We have done and will continue to do our level best to ensure that our schools are safe.  All of us are therefore, called to do whatever we are expected to do, to ensure that our school communities and spaces do not become the new hotspots for the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Deputy Minister and I, wish to encourage the Director-General, Superintendents-General, officials at the national, provincial, district and circuit levels, to continue doing the good work they have been doing.  We have a duty to perform, and we must continue to do it selflessly.

May I now invite the MECs to give accounts on the state of readiness to resume schooling within their respective provinces.

I thank you

Statement by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga. MP on the Basic Education Sector Recovery Plans for the Reopening of Schools

Good afternoon!

The past few weeks have affected South Africans in ways we have never experienced before. This, there has been an increase in anxiety and confusion in relation to the status of schooling, and when learners would be allowed to go back into their schools.

This morning the National Coronavirus Command Council held a meeting to consider the plans for the basic education sector in the context of the COVID-19. Prior to the presentations of the plans at Cabinet, we presented the plans at the National Coronavirus Command Council.

Since 26 March 2020 in the basic education sector we have held just less than fifty (50) meetings with different stakeholders. In each meeting we deliberated on the future of basic education, following the COVID-19-induced national state of disaster, resulting in the national lockdown.
Once principle guiding us was lowering the infection rate, ensuring safety but balance it against protecting lives.
At all times during the consultations we have started with the safety of our learners, teachers and employees. We made safety a priority.

The Consultation Process

We have consulted extensively in the sector. We have held robust discussions about what needs to be done to reopen our schools.
We have not forgotten why we are here, it is because of the coronavirus. As I said we held no less than 50 meetings in the sector to find a ways of getting back to work without compromising the lives of our learners, teachers and employees.

On the 7th and 26 of April we met and consulted South African Democratic Teacher Union (SADTU), National Professional Teachers of South Africa (NAPTOSA), Suid Afrikaanse Onderwysers Unie (SAOU), National Association of Teacher Union (NATU), and Professional Educators Union (PEU).

On the 10th and 26 of April we met the following organisations;
– Association for Special Education (SENASE)
– Education Management Association of South Africa (EMASA)
– South African Principal Association (SAPA
– (Federation of Association of Governing Bodies (FEDSAS)
– National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB)
– Governing Body Foundation (GBF)

On the 21st of April we consulted the Independent Examination Body (IEB), National Alliance of Independent Schools Associations (NAISA). On the 25th and 28th April we met with South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI) and Southern Africa Union Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SABBATH) respectively.

On 13 and 17 April we consulted Umalusi, Education Labour Relations Council, South African Council for Educators, Education, Training and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority (ETDP SETA), and the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT).

And then on the 22nd of April we met civil society organisations that include; NASCEE, TeachSA, PSP, COUNT, Maths Centre, CASME, Nal’ibali, Molteno Institute for language and Literacy, Room to Lead, Project Literacy, Read, New Leaders Foundation, Symphonia for South Africa, PILO, Unicef, MIET, Save the Children, Section 27 , Equal Education Law Centre, DGMT, IPASA, ETDPSETA, Nedbank, First Rand, Standard Bank, Zenex, Anglo American, Old Mutual, Kagiso Trust, Trialogue, Deans Forum, Nelson Mandela University, University of Johannesburg, University of Free State, ILIFA, Smart Start.

In all the meetings the principle of opening of schools at the right time was accepted once all the conditions have been met.

They proposed that in order to deal with social distancing they requested the department to use community and town halls, platooning and shifting.

They requested the department to provide Personal Protection Equipment. The department should provide awareness campaign to parents particularly in rural areas. They also proposed that the phased in reopening should also include special schools.

We have also received representations from ordinary members of the public, who are concerned about the impact of the COVID-19, insofar as it affects schools. We appreciate all the proposals; it is really helpful.

We are also mindful of the huge size of the sector and the many responsibilities we have in our hands.

Learner support interventions

Following the announcement of the national lockdown by the President, the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) agreed to focus on a catch-up programme, and double our efforts towards the promotion of learning and teaching in homes; and towards the preparation a catch-up programme, when the children come back to schools.

We are grateful that our partners that the Department of Basic Education and partners have made great strides to reach out to as many learners as possible with the provision of curriculum support during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Department has used one-hundred and twenty-three (123) radio stations, and six (6) different television channels with a total reach of more than thirty-five (35) million people.
The initiative was put in place as an intervention to bring curriculum lessons to households across the country to assist learners as schools remain closed. This in a bid to minimise the impact of the Corona Virus on basic education.

In addition to the thirteen (13) radio stations of the SABC, which broadcast in all official languages, one-hundred and ten (110) community radio stations are also involved in carrying curriculum content on a daily basis.

The COVID-19 Learner Support programme is aimed at limiting the impact of the lockdown to the school calendar. The initiative is part of the broader efforts to prevent a total loss of school year, since the lockdown was announced by the President, as a measure to combat the spread of the Corona Virus, also known as COVID-19.
The radio lessons broadcast are providing curriculum support lessons to learners in various Grades, including Early Childhood Development (ECD). Some of the subjects covered, include Maths, Physical Sciences, English FAL, Life Sciences, and Accounting. A variety of African languages, are also covered under the ECD basket. Learners are encouraged to check their local listings for the exact slots for radio.

We also made available resources online for those who can access such online resources. We appreciate the contribution by our partners for the zero-rated platforms, which carry curriculum content for use in the current situation of the lockdown.

We acknowledge that all these efforts are not perfect; however, we needed to put in place measures to close the vacuum that would have existed as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Impact of COVID-19 on basic education

The impact of COVID-19 will be felt for a long time to come.

We have taken a decision to postpone the May/June Matric rewrite examinations. The exams were due to be written by more than three hundred and fifty thousand (350 000), mainly part-time candidates, from the 04 May and conclude on 26 June 2020.

Due to the lockdown, we have not been able to complete our preparations, which include the printing and distribution of questions papers, the appointment of invigilators, markers, and the general readiness in marking centres.

The examinations will therefore, be merged with the November examinations. A new time-table for the merged examinations will be communicated urgently, as part of preparing the system for the biggest matric examination ever seen in the country. We estimate that one million and one-hundred thousand candidates, will sit for the end-of-year matric examinations in this merged format, which includes the Amended Senior Certificate and National Senior Certificate.

The Corona Virus is still with us, and it will be with us for some time. It is for that reason that we have taken a decision to cancel all our school enrichment programmes, such as Spelling BEE, the South African Schools Choral Eisteddfod (popularly known as the SASCE), school sports, school trips, and assemblies. All of these, will not be permitted in schools, until such time that we inform the public otherwise. I will speak about the measures to be implemented in schools later.

Due to the infection rate, it is clear that we need to continue to work together, to contain the transmission of the virus. As a sector, we have to play our part together with all our key stakeholders.

On School Fees

The CEM took note of the concern, regarding the issues of school fees. We indicated from the start, that school fees are payable, where the children attend fee-paying schools. We received reports that in some schools, parents did not pay fees; and this has affected the salaries of SGB-appointed teachers. It was agreed that provinces would look into the matter, to find an amicable but implementable solution. In the meantime, we urge all parents to continue paying school fees. If you cannot pay, because your circumstances have changed as a result of the COVID-19, please approach the school, and communicate your challenges with them.

The Recovery Plan

In the past weeks, we have worked with provinces to prepare for the reopening of schools.

Each province, district, circuit and school, must have a practical and comprehensive catch-up plan to be implemented. The plans must talk to the risk profiles of the areas in which schools are located, and this must be based on the infection rate in the specific geographic areas.

The decisions that are taken, are based on scientific considerations. We have been advised to adopt a phased approach in the reopening of schools. Uppermost in our planning, is the health and safety of our school communities – particularly learners and teachers.

Standard Operating Procedures for the containment and management of COVID -19
As part of our preparations among other things we have developed Standard Operating Procedures for the containment and management of the Corona Virus for childcare facilities, schools, and school communities. This we did, in consultation with the Department of Health. The Standard Operating Procedures will provide guidelines for all administrators on the steps to be undertaken in order to prevent the spread, and manage cases of COVID-19, including:

• Guidance for childcare facilities and schools on preventing the spread of the Corona Virus;

• Role of childcare facilities and schools in responding to the COVID-19;
• Management of COVD-19 cases in a childcare facility or school;
• Guidelines for Heads of Departments and Supervisors on COVID-19 – procedures regarding employees;
• Management and monitoring of absenteeism is schools;
• Management of learner transport measures;
• Closure of a unit / component / office / department, if an employee tested positive for COVID-19; and
• How to clean educational establishments, where there were learners, staff members, or others, with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Pillars of our sector plan

In our case, the CEM agreed on a number of steps that must be taken to ensure that the health and safety of our learners and teachers are not compromised. These measures are contained in the Standard Operating Procedures Booklet, which will be used in all schools.

Measures contained in our plans are as follows for social distancing;

• Physical distances in classrooms, includes not more than 2 learners sharing desks;
• No hugging or handshaking;
• Direct contact must be avoided;
• Cloth masks to be worn by learners and teachers at all times;

• No mass public events. All sports matches, choral practices and festivals, eisteddfods are not permitted; and
• Extra classes should be arranged in small groups that maintain social distancing.

Infrastructure and Furniture:

• Sanitize classrooms prior to the start of school day;
• sanitize hands on entering of classrooms;
• Limit movement of learners between classes; and
• No clustering of desks in classrooms.

Transport:

• We are working with the Department of Transport to ensure that buses are sanitized prior to start of all trips;
• Everybody to sanitize hands on entering of the buses;
• The distance between learners in the buses must be managed; and
• The wearing of masks throughout the school day, starting before boarding transport, is compulsory.

Remedial measures

The provincial education departments have identified three thousand five hundred schools that critical water supply challenges. These schools are spread all over the country, except for the Western Cape. The highest numbers of these schools are in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

The Department of Water and Sanitation has initiated an Emergency Water Supply programme, through which water tanks will be installed at critical supply points; and portable water will be delivered to these tanks, using water trucks. The DBE will participate in this initiative to get water tanks installed at the identified schools, and to get portable water delivered to these tanks.

Basic hygiene and sanitation package

A basic and essential hygiene and sanitation package has been developed, and provinces are procuring the critical items. These, include cleaning and disinfection materials, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), sanitizers, hand-washing soap, gloves, cloth masks and thermometers.

The DBE has developed Guidelines for schools on maintaining hygiene during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide recommendations on the proper cleaning, and use of Personal Protective Equipment, based on risk exposure including:

• Basic principles of infection prevention and control;
• Risk reduction methods for schools, classrooms, toilets or bathrooms, offices, and food preparation areas;
• Daily duties of cleaners; and
• How to use Personal Protective Equipment.

Screening and testing

• Screening of learners and educators will be done at the reopening of schools, starting with Grades 7 and 12. Temperature checks will be administered; and
• Learners or staff members who present with raised temperatures, will then be considered for isolation and testing.

On the Reopening of Schools

There are preconditions for the reopening of schools. We have developed a curriculum recovery framework, which is guided by the following principles:

• Responsiveness to the national COVD-19 programme to ensure that the national regulations, programmes and protocols are strictly adhered to;
• Inclusion and equity to ensure that all learners, and in particular the most vulnerable, access the planned programme;
• Targeted approach, taking cognisance of the unique needs of schools, phases and Grades;
• Size and scope to ensure that the curriculum plans are determined in a flexible way, guided by the size and the scope of the crisis, a short- or long-term lockdown, and the implications that this will have on teaching and learning;
• Partnerships that promote full participation and ownership of all key stakeholders;
• Safety and security in order to maintain the safety, the health and the well-being of teachers, learners and support staff;
• Time management, as the time is of essence in the recovery plan, and a focus on skills, knowledge and values;
• Nationally coordinated approach, through which, the DBE will provide clear directives of what is expected of each provincial education departments, followed by strict monitoring of compliance to the given directives.

Orientation and training as well as psychosocial support programmes

We have decided on an orientation and training programme for all stakeholders in the sector.

The purpose of the orientation and training programme is to enable learners, educators and non-teaching staff to adjust to and become familiar with the special arrangements at schools, following the outbreak of the Corona Virus in South Africa.
The orientation programme provides guidelines for interaction with learners, parents, educators and non-teaching staff in the school community. All learners, educators and support staff will receive orientation and training at the start of the school reopening, commencing with Grades 7 and 12.
We are aware of the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on families and society in general. It is unprecedented, and as a result, an increase in social, mental, psychological and emotional difficulties amongst learners, educators and officials, is anticipated, due to losses and trauma experienced through COVID-19. Schools, as social institutions, are serviced by the Psychosocial Support Services of the Departments of Social Development and Health. We have also been working closely with other departments in the Social Cluster.
In addition to these, the Basic Education Sector has psychologists and social workers, who had prior training on counseling. They will be able to use their skills to support schools. We are mindful of the needs of learners with disabilities. The DBE is working with provinces to ensure that special schools are adequately provided for in all the plans we have put together.

On the revised School Calendar

As I had indicated earlier the CEM was not rigid in looking about the reopening date. In our school readiness plans, we needed to make sure that they are aligned to the Risk Adjusted Plans, taking into account epicenters of the spread of the Corona Virus in the different provinces and the Metros.

The original school calendar year, started on 15 January 2020, and would have ended on 04 December 2020.

This morning the National Coronavirus Command Council approved that the School Calendar for 2020 be adjusted as follows;

(1) Office-based staff to return to work on 4th May 2020. This is in line with the directive from the Department of Public Service and Administration.
(2) School Management Teams should return to work on the
11th May 2020. This, we have done to ensure that the School Management Teams prepare the schools prior to return of learners.
(3) Teachers return to work on 18 May 2020 and then
(4) Grade 12 and 7 learners go back to school on the 1st of June 2020.
As I said earlier the plan to have officials in the schools to receive the material that is required for the safety measures but also to prepare the school for learning and teaching under the new conditions.

The school calendar will be gazetted once the administrative work has been completed.
Special arrangements will be made to permit learners and teachers, who are currently in other towns or cities, provinces and/or neighboring countries, other than those where their respective schools are located, to return to their schools and places of residence.

A special dispensation will also put in place for learners who experience barriers to learning, taking into account the severity of barrier.

On the vandalism of schools

We want to express our deep concern about what is happening in our schools since the lockdown was imposed. Province have reported that nine-hundred and sixty two (962) schools that have been vandalised in almost all our seventy-five (75) districts. The theft, vandalism and burglaries have taken place in all provinces. In almost all the incidents, administration blocks and laboratories have been targeted, and ICT equipment have been stolen.

Provinces have also reported that foodstuff, meant for the school nutrition programme, have also been stolen. The Umlazi District in KZN, is the hardest hit, with forty-one (41) schools affected. This is shocking and disturbing. We are extremely concerned by this level of criminality.

We welcome the work done by the Police thus far, in arresting the suspects, some of whom, were found in possession of the items believed to have been stolen from the schools.

The barbaric acts of vandalism, must be condemned by all of us. We cannot afford a situation where the education of our children is further compromised by criminals, over and above what the Corona Virus has brought upon us.

We appeal to members of the public, to work with the Police, to ensure that all the culprits in all the incidents of vandalism, theft and burglaries of our schools, are convicted and jailed for long periods.

Conclusion

We will work together with all stakeholders to ensure that the plans are implemented to the letter. We will establish COVID-19 Control Teams in every province and every district, circuit and school. We will intensify our communication modalities to ensure that communities, parents, teachers and learners know and understand the challenges faced, and the remedies that are necessary to keep everyone within our school premises safe and healthy. We will need lots of help from the community to protect learners and teachers from home to school and back. It has to be a working partnership.

I want to thank all our partners (they are too many to mention), who have come on board to support the work being done to rescue the 2020 school year. The COVID-19 has been a revelation. It has demonstrated that we can find each other quickly, work together to find solutions for the good of the country.

It is our view that the gains made in this crisis, must be maintained going forward. The unity among stakeholders has been phenomenal, and it shows that as a people, we have potential to grow South Africa together. We have a lot of work to do still, the virus is still with us, and it will remain so for some time to come. But through a collaborative effort, we can, and we will overcome.

We appeal to each one of us, to cooperate; and ensure that we put the interest of the children on top of the priority list.

Thank you

Issued by GCIS on behalf of the Department of Basic Education
30 April 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa interacts virtually with communities on Coronavirus COVID-19, 1 Jul

President Ramaphosa to interact virtually with communities on coronavirus

President Cyril Ramaphosa will today, 01 July 2020, interact with communities across the nation through a virtual Presidential Imbizo on Coronavirus.

The Presidential Imbizo is a public-participation platform where communities are able to interact directly with government on challenges in society and where citizens are able to engage on community-generated solutions to such challenges.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Presidential Imbizo will take the form of a virtual engagement in which communities are invited to participate through more than 80 community radio stations, TV channels and social media.

Details of the Presidential Imbizo are as follows:
Date: Wednesday, 01 July 2020
Time: 18:00
Syndication: Broadcast on community radio, TV channels and social media

Members of the public can submit their questions to President Ramaphosa through the following:
Community Radio Toll free line:
0800 142 446
Social media using #PresidentialImbizo

Case management in the context of a South African COVID-19 surge

The case management of COVID-19 has come into the spotlight as the numbers of active cases rises, putting our health care system to the test.

Novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) was initially reported to the World Health Organi-sation (WHO) on December 31, 2019. On January 30, 2020, WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global health emergency. On March 11, 2020, the WHO de-clared COVID-19 a global pandemic, its first such designation since the H1N1 in-fluenza pandemic in 2009.

The world has experienced six months of COVID-19, and in our case, we are begin-ning the fourth month. Clinical and epidemiological knowledge around this disease has developed at an unprecedented rate and a vaccine has already ascended to human trial phase. This is how determined we are, collectively, to beat this virus and minimise its impact on us as humanity.

As the numbers of admissions increase, so too must our clinical acumen. We are constantly learning more about the behaviour of the virus when it enters the body. Our ability to refine our clinical management will have a significant impact on the overall burden of the disease on our health care system.

The virus was initially isolated from the bronchoalveolar lavage (a washout of the lung airways) of three patients who were admitted to a hospital in Wuhan.

We have since learnt that the virus is shed through the airways and spreads by in-fected droplets passing from one individual to another

The virus has also been detected in saliva, lacrimal (tear) fluid, in stool, and in the semen of men with acute infection, as well as semen of some male patients who have recovered. Having said that, sexual transmission of the virus has not been recorded.

There have been intense studies into the duration of viral shedding (expulsion and release of the virus) as well as ascertaining how long Coronavirus survives on sur-faces.

The duration of viral shedding varies significantly between different studies and may depend on severity of disease or the nature of the study itself.

PCR detection has been used a proxy for viral shedding in some studies: one found PCR positivity from 8-37 days, with a median of 20 days. A different study found no viral shedding in 90% of patients with mild illness, whereas results were positive for longer durations in patients with severe COVID-19. Another study found a median shedding duration of 31 days (range, 18-48 days).

Although the PCR may remain positive for prolonged duration, a better marker of vi-ral shedding may come from studies that culture the virus. A small study from Ger-many early in the pandemic, showed that virus could be cultured from specimens taken during the first week of symptoms (17% from swabs, 83% from sputum), but no positive cultures were obtained from samples taken after 8 days from symptom onset, despite the PCR remaining positive. A more recent Canadian study of 90 pa-tients that were PCR positive showed that culture of virus was possible in 29% but no growth of virus was detected in samples taken after 7 days from symptom onset.

In summary, shedding of live virus may be of shorter duration than PCR positivity.

There is also variability with regard to Coronavirus persistence on various surfaces. A study found that SARS-CoV-2 remained detectable for up to 72 hours on some surfaces despite decreasing infectivity over time. Notably, the study reported that no viable Coronavirus was measured after 4 hours on copper or after 24 hours on card-board.

COVID-19 is defined as illness caused by SARS-CoV-2.

Presentations of COVID-19 have ranged from asymptomatic/mild symptoms to se-vere illness and death. Symptoms may develop between two days and two weeks following exposure to the virus.

Clinical characteristics of COVID-19 include fever and symptoms typical of a viral respiratory tract infection: cough, sore throat, loss of taste and loss of smell, nasal congestion, and even conjunctivitis, have been reported.

Further, gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are also com-mon with COVID-19.

The virus can progress to cause lower respiratory tract infection resulting in, pneu-monia and its complications.

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) is a serious complication of COVID-19. The lungs may become stiff and difficult to ventilate. It is for this reason that ARDS is associated with a high mortality rate. Added to this, some reports from Italy seem to suggest there is an atypical form of ARDS in patients with COVID-19, leading to much higher oxygen requirements.

There have been two major advancements in the case management of severely ill patients who require ventilatory support. First is the advent of dexamethasone which has shown that deaths can be reduced by a third for patients on ventilators and can also help patients who only need supplemental oxygen.

It is easy to appreciate why that is, if one understands the pathology.

The spikes that have become a branding trademark of COVID-19 are made up of proteins that like to interact with a certain receptor, called the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 receptor (or ACE-2), that is found in large amounts in the alveoli.

This causes direct injury to the lung tissue due to a local inflammatory response. This response is mediated by a hyperactive immune response system that is meant to deal with the virus. Unfortunately, in ARDS, this response is exaggerated, resulting in significant and sustained inflammatory damage to lung tissue itself. Oedema (wa-ter in the lungs) also forms a part of this pathology.

With pneumonia, the pathology is slightly different in that the spaces in the lung alveoli fill up with inflammatory sediment causing a consolidation (all the air filled up) of a particular part of the lung. The body can, to some extent, redirect its blood flow to healthier parts of the lung during pneumonia. We call this shunting. And so, pneumonia is generally a little bit easier to manage than ARDS, which causes wide-spread lung damage.

In both these instances, the process mediating the inflammatory response is an im-portant part of the damage caused. And so, dexamethasone and other corticos-teroids exert their effect by attenuating the inflammatory response, thus reducing damage to lung tissue which means less stiff lungs that are more compliant to the work of breathing or ventilating.

It is for this reason that we now recommend early administration of dexamethasone to critically ill patients who require oxygen support.

Apart from dexamethasone, we are also learning a great deal about ventilating pa-tients. Evidence increasingly supports the avoidance of invasive ventilation strate-gies as far as possible.

This is because when one is very ill, they generate a fight or flight response. These hormones drive your body to work harder to breath; your heart to beat faster to circu-late oxygen and nutrients to a body that is demanding more; and for you to be able to pay attention to warning signs such as pain or heat. When we intubate a patient and ventilate them artificially, this has to be facilitated by sedation and a limited peri-od of muscle relaxation. These processes remove, or significantly dampen, the fight or flight response and therefore remove the ability for the patient to physiologically cooperate with the interventions you are making as a doctor. Therefore, it is always better to have a patient who can optimally mount these responses that lead to im-proved outcomes.

We soon expect the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 to issue advisories on the use of high flow oxygen for patients who are very ill but can be managed without intubation and ventilation.

We were very pleased to receive the National Institute of Communicable Diseases’ sentinel report completed on June 21. This report brings all these issues home and gives us a sense of the burden we have faced, how the system has coped and mar-ries these lessons to the projections that have been modelled of the coming surge.

The NICD reported 10 700 COVID-19 admissions from 269 facilities (71 public- sec-tor and 198 private-sector) in all nine provinces of South Africa between March 5 and June 21, 2020.

These were the key findings:

  • The median age of COVID-19 admissions was 50 years; 338 (3%) admissions in patients ≤18 years and 1386 (13%) in >70 years. Fifty-four percent (5 778/10 700) were female.
  • Among 8 245 (77%) patients with data on co-morbid conditions, 2 810 (34%) had one co-morbid condition and 3126 (37%) had two or more co-morbid conditions.
  • Of the 5 836 patients who had a co-morbid condition, the most commonly reported were hypertension 3419 (59%) and diabetes 2813 (48%); and there were 1 116 (19%) patients admitted with HIV, 240 (4%) with active tuberculosis (TB) and 579(10%) patients with previous history of tuberculosis.
  • Obesity, while not consistently recorded for all reported COVID-19 admissions, was noted by clinicians as a risk factor in 297 (3%) patients.
  • Of the 10700 admissions, 3 260 (31%) patients were in hospital at the time of the report, 5 925 (55%) patients were discharged alive or transferred out, and 1 515 (14%) patients had died.
  • Of the 7 324 COVID-19 patients who had recorded in-hospital outcomes (died and discharged), 1 515 died, equating to an in-hospital case fatality ratio (CFR) of 21%.
  • Some of the factors associated with in-hospital mortality were older age groups; male sex; and having co-morbid hypertension, diabetes, chronic cardiac disease, chronic renal disease, malignancy, HIV and obesity.

We are a government that values science and we remain guided by scientific litera-ture as higher levels of evidence emerge from more robust studies.

Although we have previously highlighted the key issues covered in the scope of this statement, we wish to detail them for the public to demonstrate the connection be-tween science and the recommendations that we make.

We have recommended frequent hand-washing, avoidance of touching the face and cleaning of surfaces – this is to protect one from acquiring the virus as one interacts with surfaces.

We have recommended social distancing based on the fact that droplets traverse a certain distance from person to person.

We have recommended the wearing of face masks based on clear evidence that masks reduce the amount of exhaled Coronavirus. The various studies on viral shedding show too much variability in the time one sheds the virus. We also now know that one can shed the virus days before showing symptoms and for days after they recover from their symptoms – and so by wearing face-masks, one can literally save someone else from acquiring the virus. If that person is elderly or living with a co-morbidity, you can save that life.

We have recommended that the elderly and those with co-morbidities should take extra care, avoid leaving home, and ensure that their chronic conditions are well un-der control. The NICD report confirms that indeed these population groups are par-ticularly vulnerable.

These recommendations are easy enough to follow for a few weeks, but they now need to become a new normal. We need to establish and keep new habits and incul-cate them into our traditions, our customs and our working lives forever.

This is proving to be particularly difficult for South Africans to sustain and we appre-ciate that it is not easy to become accustomed to a new way of life.

As such, we are engaging the process of behavioral change through a multi-sectoral approach and we will do our best as government to reach out to our people and ap-peal to their sense of survival because these interventions are recommended for the sake of saving lives.

These are the things that will prevent one from being admitted into hospital in the first place.

But for those unfortunate ones who do become ill and need hospitalisation, we should be assured our doctors and nurses in facilities are doing a terrific job.

They have hitherto kept the morbidity and mortality rates lower than the average that is seen globally. We must salute each and every health care worker in this country for putting South Africa in the leadership of global COVID-19 combat.

For each and every patient on advanced levels of respiratory support that is pulled through, this is a result of the highest quality care that anyone could attain.

For every patient that is discharged and recovered, this is a celebration of South African medicine which is world famous for its excellence and leadership in many ar-eas, particularly infectious diseases.

We once again appeal to the public to partner with government in the face of COVID-19.

We are riding into the storm, but, together, we will prevail.

Dr. Zwelini Mkhize
Minister of Health

From the Desk of the President (29th June 2020)

Dear Fellow South African,

The number of deaths from coronavirus recently passed the 2,000 mark. Among those who have lost their lives are health care workers, consummate professionals who cared for the ill, and were a support and comfort to those in hospital isolated from their families.

That the men and women carrying out this most noble and sacred of duties are themselves falling ill and dying is a devastating blow.

They are on the frontline of fighting this pandemic. They are working under great pressure and must carry the psychological strain of knowing they are at risk of contracting the virus. They are the true heroes and heroines of our battle against coronavirus.

We salute these brave South Africans who leave their homes, families and loved ones to report without fail for duty every day in clinics, hospitals and other health facilities. There they provide medical care, administrative support and other services like cleaning and catering.

Just as they perform what is their professional duty, we too have a duty to them and to their families. Their health and their safety must be paramount.

We honour them and uphold them as the men and women who have demonstrated they are prepared to risk their lives so that we may live.

For them to do their Herculean work they need our support as well as protection through the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE).

With the support of the Solidarity Fund and donations from many individual South Africans, businesses, foundations and other governments, we have been able to procure personal protective equipment for these brave frontline workers. Where there have been shortages of PPE our hospitals are urgently attending to ensuring that they are available.

We know that access to PPE is not the only challenge our health care workers face. Across the country clinics and hospitals are facing staff shortages. This problem is being attended to.

To support the work that our frontline workers are performing around the country we are deploying Ministers and Deputy Ministers to each of the districts in the country to get a line of sight of specific challenges in these districts and to work with provincial health authorities.

We need to work together to safeguard the health of not just our frontline workers but the entire workforce.

There has already been sterling work done by unions in educating members around infection control and prevention and hygiene. They are also supporting the work of the Department of Employment and Labour in conducting workplace inspections to ensure health and safety protocols are in place for returning workers. Many of our trade unions are also providing coronavirus information to their members and employers are running awareness campaigns.

One of the challenges that has emerged in our country is the stigmatisation of people who have proven positive with coronavirus. As a society, we have a collective responsibility to stamp out the stigmatisation of people infected with the coronavirus. There have been disturbing reports of individuals being ostracised from their communities and of communities protesting against coronavirus patients being admitted to local hospitals and clinics. This must stop.

Just as we came together to promote acceptance of people living with HIV and stood firm against victimisation, we must show understanding, tolerance, kindness, empathy and compassion for those who are infected with this virus and for their families.

It is said that this stigmatisation is driven by fear of contracting the disease and lack of understanding. The best way to overcome our instinctive fear of illness and contagion is to observe the hygiene protocols that are in place. The fear of infection is well-founded and real. At the same time, we know what we have to do to protect ourselves and others.

We know what causes the virus and what we can do to protect ourselves from becoming infected. We know we have to maintain social distancing, to self-isolate if we have come into contact with those infected and to present to a hospital if we have symptoms.

We must continue to be guided by facts and not rumours.

The time when anyone could say they do not know anyone who is infected or affected by coronavirus has long passed. Now, more than ever, our friends, families, colleagues and neighbours need our empathy and support.

In the days, weeks and months that lie ahead, we will at times find ourselves despondent and fearful as we see the numbers of people infected and dying continue to rise. It may be that things have gotten worse, but we are certain that they will get better. Our scientists and medical advisers told us that the rate of infections will go up as we move towards our peak. But it will certainly come down.

We pay tribute to the health care workers who lost their lives caring for the sick. In their memory, let us keep ourselves and our fellow citizens safe by playing our part.

We shall overcome this virus and rebuild our society. We have seen darker times and we have prevailed.

Let us spare neither strength nor courage as we work together to save lives.

With best wishes,

Gazette of amendment of regulations issued in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act

The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, designated under section 3 of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002), signed and gazetted an amendment to the regulations for the advanced COVID-19 Alert Level 3 Lockdown.

The regulations are amended and gazetted after the declaration of a national state of disaster, published in Government Gazette No. 43096 of 15 March 2020, and extended by Government Notice No. R. 646 of 5 June 2020, hereby in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002.

The regulations were  gazetted by the Minister after consultation with other Cabinet members. The amendments expand the sectors that are permitted under level 3, regulation 33 has been updated to allow movement for the purpose of provision and procuring the services permitted in these regulations. Under these amendments, cinemas, restaurants, theatres and casinos may operate subject to the strict adherence to all health protocols and social distancing measures and following the directions to be issued by the responsible Minister, after consultation with the Minister of Health.

The amendments are issued in line with the President’s message that government is implementing the Risk Adjusted Strategy model in order to balance the overriding objective of saving lives and protecting livelihoods. The Minister urges South Africans to continue to exercise caution and protect themselves and others from avoidable exposure to COVID-19 infection.

The amended regulations are  published on the following websites: www.gov.za and www.cogta.gov.za.

Click here to download a PDF version of the Alert Level 3 Regulations

Dear Fellow South African,

More than 100 days after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa and after two months of a nation-wide lockdown, our economy is in the throes of the anticipated fallout from this global crisis. The predictions of businesses shutting down and jobs being lost are materialising.

Last week a number of companies announced plans to retrench staff. From aviation to construction, from entertainment and leisure to hospitality, companies have indicated their intention to retrench staff because of heavy losses incurred over the past three months. In other cases, businesses are closing permanently. Small businesses whose turnover has been wiped out will be even harder hit.

As a country, we have all been keenly aware of the consequences of shutting down economic activity during the lockdown that was absolutely critical to save the lives of our people.

South Africa is not alone. In Italy, the UK, the US, Germany, India, China and nearly every country that had imposed some form of lockdown, jobs have been lost or hours of workers reduced. It is being spoken of as a ‘job loss tsunami’.

In April the International Labour Organisation forecast there would be around 305 million job losses worldwide. The situation of workers in the informal economy is even worse, with an estimated 1.6 billion workers in danger of losing their livelihoods.

For a country such as ours, which was already facing an unemployment crisis and weak economic growth, difficult decisions and difficult days lie ahead. We would urge that the difficult decisions to be taken are taken with care and with due regard to balancing the sustainability of companies and the livelihoods of workers. It is important that whatever is done is underpinned by ensuring a just transition to all concerned.

The measures we put in place to protect local businesses during the lockdown in the form of loans, tax relief, debt restructuring, extended credit lines and retail rental exemptions are continuing to provide vital support. Temporary social assistance to poor households is gathering pace and providing vital relief. However, these measures can only go so far.

This week the Minister of Finance will table a revised national budget in Parliament. Revenue has plummeted and difficult decisions will be made in the coming weeks and months as we seek to reprioritise our programmes, manage public spending and scale back on projects where necessary.

The economic hardship that has been forced on a number of companies in the private sector will be forced on a number of entities in the public sector as well. The government, business, labour and civil society will have to deepen their collaboration as never before in driving the national recovery effort.

As more economic activity resumes, struggling businesses will be ‘playing catch-up’ to recoup lost productivity and revenue for some time to come. As much as we seek to protect current jobs, we also need to create new ones, and attract new, greater levels of investment. It is imperative that we open avenues for self-employment and entrepreneurship, especially for young people.

In the past two years the business community has made commitments to invest in various businesses in our country. It is our hope that our business community and international investors will honour the investment commitments made in a number of forums such as the South Africa Investment Conference.

Coronavirus has resulted in companies around the world re-evaluating their investment and expansion plans, and we must anticipate that some of these commitments may be scaled back and even cancelled. South Africa still has great investment opportunities and assets to invest in.

We remain optimistic that as we gradually return to normalcy, and as we forge ahead with the economic reform measures embarked upon earlier this year, that the growing investment levels we were seeing before coronavirus hit will slowly but surely return.

The announcement last week by Amazon that it is on a drive to hire up to 3,000 South Africans for a variety of positions is a welcome signal, as is the announcement that a local energy storage company Metair has secured a number of contracts from the Ford Motor Company, and that the pan-African cloud and data solutions entity Africa Data Centres has acquired a hi-tech data centre in Johannesburg.

Tomorrow the inaugural Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium of South Africa will take place. A number of catalytic infrastructure projects in water, transportation, energy, digital infrastructure, human settlements and agriculture will be showcased. Project sponsorship has been sought from the private sector, multilateral development banks, development finance institutions, asset managers and commercial banks.

Through the delivery of sustainable and fit-for-purpose infrastructure we are able to meet our developmental aspirations and revive economic activity, while also creating jobs at scale at a time when they are needed most.

This infrastructure investment forms an integral part of our recovery effort. This will be bolstered by the reduction of interest rates by the South African Reserve Bank, support extended to businesses during the pandemic and regulatory relief for the financial sector, among others.

The job creation efforts we began in early 2020, such as the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, and the existing ones such as the Expanded Public Works Programme and Community Works Programme, will be scaled up. The job-creation initiatives and programmes the private sector began before coronavirus must resume, and new ones should be designed and implemented.

There are tough times ahead. There are no quick-fixes and we have to be realistic about our prospects, especially about the time it will take for our economy to recover. Even the advanced economies will contract substantially because of COVID-19 and it will take a long time for economic output to return to pre-pandemic levels.

At the same time we remain optimistic.

We will keep trying, because we understand that despite the hardship it has caused, the lockdown was necessary and has saved lives. No price can be put on human life.

Let us put shoulder to the wheel and turn this adversity into opportunity. Let us reimagine and repurpose our economy and put it firmly on a solid and sustainable path.

With best wishes,

Follow Up Statement on Dexamethasone by the Minister of Health

19 June 2020
Follow Up Statement on Dexamethasone by the Minister of Health

On 16 June, I conveyed our excitement, as a Department, around the breakthrough research of the RECOVERY trial from Oxford University in Britain.

In this trial, they studied the therapeutic effects of dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory medicine well known in the clinical setting to manage inflammatory processes that are seen in clinical setting such as asthma, allergic reactions, auto-immune disease and brain swelling (oedema).

Dexamethasone was found to reduce mortality by one third in patients who required ventilatory support and by one fifth in patients who required non invasive supplementary oxygen.

This is a significant breakthrough in evidence based management of COVID-19. The study results are compelling because it was a randomized study that was able to recruit large numbers of participants (6425).

There is no other medicine that has shown this level of efficacy against COVID-19 to date.

The study showed no benefit for those patients who did not require oxygen supplementation.

Since this announcement, we have looked into our own context and found that we are indeed in a favourable position.

Our health care workers are very familiar with dexamethasone, having used it for decades as a registered medicine in South Africa.

We are immediately able to offer all patients that need intravenous dexamethasone- we have checked our stock and we currently have around 300 000 ampoules in the country.

This is one of those medicines where we do have excellent local capacity.

There are three major suppliers of intravenous dexamethasone in the country. One of the companies manufactures the oral equivalent and supplies it all over the world and so we are able to negotiate the security of our own supply right here at home.

In fact, to have a South African enterprise be a manufacturer and supplier of a critical medicine, especially one that will prove to be lifesaving in the current global context, is a real departure from the norm and so South Africans can take pride in being one of the countries that will provide a solution to a global crisis.

Our Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 issued an advisory to recommend the use of dexamethasone (or an equivalent steroid like hydrocortisone or prednisolone) for all COVID-19 patients on ventilators or requiring non-invasive supplementary oxygen. Dexamethasone is not recommended for asymptomatic patients or patients with symptoms who do not require oxygen.

This breakthrough is excellent news for us and we are especially fortunate that it came as we are preparing for our upcoming surge.

The strategy is easy to implement as the medicine is inexpensive, easy to transport, easy to administer and will not require too much additional training.

Whilst the MAC has made it clear their advisory is issued while awaiting the full study paper for closer assessment, we have learnt that leading clinicians in academic hospitals have been using the medicine and they are very excited that their anecdotal experiences have now been affirmed by higher levels of evidence.

We therefore will be moving ahead to issue guidelines for the use of dexamethasone in all our facilities for desperately ill COVID-19 patients.

We are so pleased that we have the wherewithal to deliver quality, evidence based health care to those who need it the most.

As a nation, we see value in participating in clinical trials that comply with the highest ethical standards. This ensures that we contribute to the body of knowledge and secure our access to therapeutics when they are ready for clinical application.

Dr Zwelini Mkhize
Minister of Health

President Cyril Ramaphosa: South Africa’s response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic

Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa on South Africa’s response to the Coronavirus Pandemic, 17 June 2020

Compatriots,

It is now just over 100 days since the first case of coronavirus was identified in South Africa.

For 100 days we have been living in the shadow of one of the greatest threats to global health in over 100 years.

The disease, and the measures we have taken to fight it, have caused massive disruption in the lives of our people, bringing our economy to a standstill and threatening the livelihoods of millions.

So far, it has cost our nation the lives of 1,674 people.

In the midst of this life-destroying pandemic, we are greatly encouraged by news this week of a breakthrough in the treatment of COVID-19.

A study by the University of Oxford in Britain found that the drug dexamethasone – which is also manufactured here in South Africa by one of our pharmaceutical companies and of which there is an ample supply – reduced deaths among patients on ventilation by a third.

The Department of Health and the Ministerial Advisory Committee has recommended that dexamethasone can be considered for use on patients on ventilators and on oxygen supply.

We believe that this will improve our management of the disease among those who are most severely affected.

Since the start of the outbreak there have been 80,412 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa.

Of these, 44,331 people – or around 55% – have recovered.  That means there are currently 34,407 active cases in the country.

Yet, as we know, the cost in human lives could have been far higher.

We took a decision early in the development of the disease in South Africa to restrict international travel and gatherings with the declaration of a National State of Disaster and subsequently imposed a nation-wide lockdown to slow the transmission of the virus.

In doing so, we aimed to ‘flatten the curve’ of infection so that our health system would be better able to care for the large number of people who would be needing care.

As a result of the decisive action we took then – and particularly through your cooperation, determination and sacrifice as a nation – we succeeded in delaying the spread of the virus.

One of the ways of measuring the rate of transmission is what is called ‘doubling time’. This is the number of days it takes for the total number of cases to double.

In the three weeks prior to the implementation of the nation-wide lockdown, the number of infections was doubling every 2 days.

During level 5 of the lockdown, this doubling time increased to 15 days, which meant that it took much longer for the virus to spread.

The doubling time has been at around 12 days during levels 4 and 3.

We used the time during the lockdown to prepare and enhance our health system and put in place public health measures to minimise infections.

The work to strengthen our health system – which includes establishing over 100 quarantine centres, increasing the number of intensive care units and beds in field hospitals and identifying additional health personnel – continues across all our provinces.

But while we have used the lockdown to start to flatten the curve, this task is far from complete.

Even after 100 days, we are still near the beginning of this epidemic and it will remain with us for many more months, possibly years.

The task of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is like running a marathon race and not a sprint, and we have therefore had to shape our response according to that reality.

Over the last few weeks, the number of infections has been rising rapidly.

Nearly a third of all confirmed cases have been recorded in the last week alone and more than half of all confirmed cases have been recorded over the last two weeks.

The Western Cape has so far been hardest hit by the disease, accounting for about 60% of infections across the country.

While community transmission has remained low across most of the country for the past 9 weeks, it has been rising rapidly in that province.

There are indications that transmission in the Eastern Cape is now starting to rise and may just be a few weeks behind the Western Cape.

For many of us, what was once a distant disease is now coming much closer.

More and more of us now know someone who is infected, whether at work or school or in our church, mosque, temple or synagogue.

It may be one of our friends or a member of our family.

Many of you are concerned about the increase in infections and anxious for the safety and well-being of your loved ones.

You are worried about the possibility of getting infected yourself, in a taxi or on a bus, at work or at the shops, at school or university, visiting a clinic or hospital.

These concerns are understandable and reasonable.

Because as the country gradually opens up, as we resume more activities, the risk of infection inevitably increases.

Yet, even though the risk of infection is greater, it is by no means inevitable.

Through our behaviour as individuals we can reduce the likelihood that we will get infected or infect others. And it is through our personal and collective actions that we can continue to delay the rate of infection across society.

Studies show that wearing a cloth mask or similar piece of clothing that covers both your nose and mouth at all times when one is in public is one of those measures that reduces the rate of transmission of the virus.

Millions of South Africans – including small children – are now wearing cloth masks whenever they leave home.

There are, however, some South Africans who have not yet taken up the practice of wearing masks.

We would like to encourage everyone in our country to wear masks when they are in public.

Let us make sure that we do not share masks and that we wash our masks thoroughly in soap and water after each use.

The wearing of masks, however, is no substitute for regular washing of hands with soap and water or sanitiser and maintaining a distance of at least 1.5 metres from other people.

Let us all remember not to touch our faces with unwashed hands, and clean and sanitise surfaces regularly.

We should also keep in mind that social distancing is still one of the most effective ways of reducing the spread of the virus.

These basic practices are becoming even more important now as we ease the lockdown and enter a new phase in our coronavirus response.

These are still the best ways of containing the spread of the virus.

Our medical experts have advised that interventions such as setting up fumigation tunnels and body spraying should not be used as they have no proven benefit and may be harmful.

From the outset, we knew that extreme measures were needed to slow community transmission.

But we also knew that a nation-wide lockdown could not be sustained indefinitely.

With the move to alert level 3 from the 1st of June, our prevention response is now largely focused on the simple everyday things that each of us can do to protect ourselves and our communities.

It is about each of us taking personal responsibility, wherever we are and whoever we are, for curbing the spread of the disease.

The power to defeat coronavirus is in our hands.

Our response is now also more focused, on hotspot areas with the greatest rate of infection and sending multi-disciplinary health teams to contain outbreaks and ensure those with the infection get the necessary care.

At the same time, we have massively increased screening for coronavirus symptoms throughout the country, at every workplace, school, university, shopping centre, place of worship, taxi rank or other public space where people gather.

Like many other countries, South Africa has been affected by the global shortage of coronavirus test kits and other materials.

We have therefore had to become more targeted in our testing, prioritising patients in hospitals, health care workers, vulnerable people like the elderly and hotspot areas.

Although the situation is improving, we continue to experience delays in testing.

This has severe implications for effectively managing patients with the infection as well as tracing the contacts of infected people.

We are therefore using every avenue available to source the supplies we need and to increase our testing capacity and improve the turnaround time.

Among the initiatives that we have pursued together with other countries on our continent is the ground-breaking Africa Medical Supplies Portal.

This is a single continental marketplace where African countries can access critical medical supplies, such as test kits, from suppliers and manufacturers in Africa and around the world in the necessary quantities and at competitive prices.

This platform will complement the work that is being done to ensure that we have the medical equipment, personal protective equipment and hospital facilities to manage the anticipated increase in COVID-19 patients.

Fellow South Africans,

The coronavirus pandemic is not only a global health crisis. It is also a global economic crisis of ever-increasing proportion.

No country, no industry and no person is unaffected.

Here in South Africa, the pandemic has severely disrupted the livelihoods of millions of people.

As you are aware many businesses that stopped operating on the 27th of March, when the lockdown came into effect, have not yet been able to re-open under current restrictions.

These include large companies with many thousands of employees and many more smaller companies with just a handful of employees.

This means that there are businesses that have not earned any revenue and individuals who have not had any income for over 80 days.

Even with the measures we put in place to support companies, employees and poor households as part of the R500 billion relief package, there is a limit to how long these businesses can be closed.

When I announced that the country would be moving to alert level 3 from the 1st of June, I said that we would be giving consideration to re-opening other sectors of the economy if the necessary safety precautions could be put in place and maintained.

Following further discussions with industry representatives on stringent prevention protocols, and after advice from scientists and consultation with Premiers, Cabinet has decided to ease restrictions on certain other economic activities.

These activities include:

Restaurants for ‘sit-down’ meals
Accredited and licensed accommodation, with the exception of home sharing accommodation like AirBnB.
Conferences and meetings for business purposes and in line with restrictions on public gatherings.
Cinemas and theatres, to be aligned to limitations on the gathering of people.
Casinos.
Personal care services, including hairdressers and beauty services
Non-contact sports such as golf, tennis, cricket and others. Contact sports will be allowed only for training and modified activities with restricted use of facilities.

In each instance, specific and stringent safety requirements have been agreed on and will need to be put in place before a business can re-open, and protocols will need to be strictly adhered to for businesses to remain open.

Announcements will be made in due course to detail these measures and indicate the date from which these activities will be permitted.

We have taken this decision with due care and seriousness, appreciating the risks associated with each activity and the measures needed to manage those risks.

Altogether, these industries employed over 500,000 people before the lockdown.

We have had to think about these people and those who depend on them for their livelihoods.

Through the easing of the lockdown we are continuing to balance our overriding objective of saving lives and preserving livelihoods.

It is important to remember that this is a global pandemic and that most countries are facing similar challenges and must resolve similar dilemmas.

We are therefore working closely with international agencies and other countries in responding to the coronavirus.

As Chair of the African Union, we are integrally involved in forging a common approach across the continent, ensuring that we mobilise resources and develop strategies to ensure that no country is left behind.

There are currently over 250,000 confirmed cases in Africa and there have been more than 6,700 deaths.

This is relatively low compared to the global number of cases – which has now passed 8 million – largely because African countries acted swiftly to implement national lockdowns.

However, we can expect infections in Africa to rise as countries ease restrictions in the face of severe economic pressures and we are working together as a continent to meet that challenge.

It has been particularly important for us to open up personal care services, because this is an industry that predominantly employs women.

The last three months have been particularly difficult for the millions of women who work as hairdressers, in spas, as therapists and technicians.

Many of these are businesses are owned by women and a source of income in the informal sector.

Giving women the necessary support to become financially independent is the greatest of priorities, especially now.

It is with the heaviest of hearts that I stand before the women and girls of South Africa this evening to talk about another pandemic that is raging in our country – the killing of women and children by the men of our country.

As a man, as a husband and as a father, I am appalled at what is no less than a war being waged against the women and children of our country.

At a time when the pandemic has left us all feeling vulnerable and uncertain, violence is being unleashed on women and children with a brutality that defies comprehension.

These rapists and killers walk among us. They are in our communities.

They are our fathers, our brothers, our sons and our friends; violent men with utterly no regard for the sanctity of human life.

Over the past few weeks no fewer than 21 women and children have been murdered. Their killers thought they could silence them.

But we will not forget them and we will speak for them where they cannot.

We will speak for Tshegofatso Pule, Naledi Phangindawo, Nompumelelo Tshaka, Nomfazi Gabada, Nwabisa Mgwandela, Altecia Kortjie and Lindelwa Peni, all young women who were killed by men.

We will speak for the 89-year-old grandmother who was killed in an old age home in Queenstown, the 79-year-old grandmother who was killed in Brakpan and the elderly woman who was raped in KwaSwayimane in KwaZulu-Natal.

We will speak for the innocent souls of Tshegofatso Pule’s unborn daughter who had already been given a name, six-year-old Raynecia Kotjie and the six-year-old child found dead in the veld in KwaZulu-Natal.

They are not just statistics. They have names and they had families and friends. This evening, our thoughts and prayers are with them.

I want to commend the South African Police Service for their excellent work in arresting almost all of the alleged perpetrators.

As these suspects make bail applications this week, I have the utmost confidence that our courts will send the strongest of signals that such violence has no place in society.

At a joint sitting of Parliament in September last year, I announced an Emergency Response Plan to combat gender-based violence and femicide and that R1.6 billion in government funding would be reprioritised to support its implementation until the end of the financial year.

We now have a National Strategic Plan to guide our country’s national effort against gender- based violence.

During the lockdown period we have ensured that survivors of gender-based violence have access to support and services, including the GBV hotline, shelters and    centres providing support to victims of sexual violence.

Since December last year, 10 government-owned buildings have been handed over to the Department of Social Development to be used as shelters, addressing one of the biggest challenges facing survivors who want to leave abusive relationships.

Over the last 18 months, we have made demonstrable progress in broadening access to support for survivors.

Thirteen regional courts have been upgraded into sexual offences courts.

To support the work of law-enforcement, 7,000 evidence collection kits have been distributed regularly to every police station in the country and there are now over 1,000 survivor friendly rooms at police stations.

Many police, prosecutors, magistrates and policymakers have undergone sensitivity and awareness training, and over 3,000 government employees who work with children and mentally disabled persons have been checked against the National Register of Sex Offenders.

Legislative amendments have been prepared around, among other things, minimum sentencing in cases of gender-based violence, bail conditions for suspects, and greater protection for women who are victims of intimate partner violence.

I urge our lawmakers in Parliament to process them without delay.

Our courts have been firm in dealing with cases of gender-based violence even during the lockdown period, handing down life sentences and multiple life sentences to perpetrators.

I want to assure the women and children of South Africa that our criminal justice system will remain focused on gender-based violence cases and that we can expect more arrests and more prosecutions against perpetrators to follow.

The perpetrators of violence against women and children must receive sentences that fit the horrific crimes they commit.

It is deeply disturbing that the spike in crimes against women and children has coincided with the easing of the coronavirus lockdown.

According to the police, violent crime – especially murders and attempted murders – has increased since alert level 3 took effect on 1 June.

Cases of abuse of women and children have also increased dramatically. We need to ask some very difficult questions of ourselves as a society.

In particular, we need to examine the effect of alcohol abuse not only on levels of violence, but also on road accidents and reckless behaviour.

Several international and domestic studies show clear linkages between alcohol abuse and gender-based violence.

Of course, it is not alcohol that rapes or kills a woman or a child. Rather, it is the actions of violent men.

But if alcohol intoxication is contributing to these crimes, then it must be addressed with urgency.

We need to draw the lessons from this lockdown and decide how we can protect our society from the abuse of alcohol.

Certainly, we need to provide greater support to people with drinking problems, including through rehabilitation and treatment.

We need to encourage responsible drinking, especially among young people.

We need to be tough on liquor outlets that violate the terms of their licenses and who sell alcohol to those under-age.

But we will also need to look at further, more drastic measures to curb the abuse of alcohol.

Ultimately, the success of our fight to end gender-based violence will require the involvement and support of our entire society.

If we are serious about ending these crimes, we cannot remain silent any longer. These perpetrators are known to us and our communities.

By looking away, by discouraging victims from laying charges, by shaming women for their lifestyle choices or their style of dress, we become complicit in these crimes.

I once again call on every single South African listening this evening to consider the consequence of their silence.

As a country, we find ourselves in the midst of not one, but two, devastating epidemics.

Although very different in their nature and cause, they can both be overcome – if we work together, if we each take personal responsibility for our actions and if we each take care of each other.

The road ahead will be long and difficult. The task of recovery will be considerable.

But if there is anything that we have learnt in the last 100 days, it is that we are a resilient, resourceful and determined people.

We shall overcome.

May God bless South Africa and protect her people. I thank you.

From the Desk of the President (8th June 2020)

Dear Fellow South African,

Most people will have noticed that the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Africa has been rising fast. More than a half of all cases since the start of the outbreak were recorded in the last two weeks.

During the course of this coming week, we can expect that the total number of cases will pass the 50,000 mark. Sadly, we are also likely to record the 1,000th death from this devastating disease.

Like many South Africans, I too have been worried as I watch these figures keep rising. While these numbers are broadly in line with what the various models had projected, there is a big difference between looking at a graph on a piece of paper and seeing real people becoming infected, some getting ill and some dying.

We can draw some comfort from the knowledge that the nation-wide lockdown  in achieving the objective we had of delaying the spread of the virus and that it gave us time to prepare our health facilities and interventions for the expected spike in infections.

The lockdown was not only necessary but it has also given us all time to adjust to living with the virus. Various surveys show that South Africans have come to know a lot about the virus and are taking the necessary precautions to prevent its spread. I have been pleased to realise that a high percentage of South Africans wash their hands regularly, avoid contact with other people and wear face masks whenever they go out in public. I should however say that social distancing in public places is still a major challenge for us. We need to focus our attention on ensuring that we adhere to social distancing practices because it is through close contact between people that the virus will be spread.

It is pleasing to realise that businesses, government departments, schools and other institutions have used this time to get themselves ready for a gradual return to more-or-less normal activity. They have been putting stringent health protocols in place, thoroughly cleaning and sanitising their premises and are ensuring that people are regularly screened for COVID-19 symptoms. This is all necessary to ensure that we save lives and protect livelihoods.

Last Friday, I spent the day in Cape Town to get a better sense of the work that is being done to manage the disease there. The Western Cape is the epicentre of coronavirus infections in South Africa, with around two-thirds of all confirmed cases.

I was impressed by the preparations the Western Cape is making to contain infections and to ensure that there are enough beds, staff and medical supplies to accommodate the rapidly increasing number of people needing hospitalisation. They are increasing the number of beds by setting up field hospitals, including at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Yet, even with the preparations they have made, they will need more bed capacity as the disease reaches its peak. They need help from outside the province, including additional funding and health personnel.

This provides the clearest evidence yet that we are correct to treat coronavirus as a national disaster. We must mobilise and deploy all the necessary resources we have in the country. We need an integrated strategy that brings together the national, provincial and local spheres of government.

After the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape is the province with the fastest-growing proportion of people infected. And we know that some of the infections in the province were the result of people travelling from the Western Cape. What this tells us is that no part of the country is an island and that all South Africans, no matter where they live, need to remain vigilant and prepared. It is for this reason also that people are not permitted to travel between provinces while the country is at alert level 3, except under specific circumstances and with the necessary permits.

As we watch the number of infections rise further – probably far faster than most of us imagined – we should be concerned, but not alarmed. That is because we have the ability, as individuals, communities and as a country, to limit the impact of the disease on our people.

As we have shown, we can slow the spread of the disease, and we should continue to take all measures possible to continue to flatten the infection curve. Most importantly, we must  be prepared to reduce the number of deaths by implementing the necessary health measures.

Working with our social partners, we in government are working hard to prepare for the increase of infections. We have been buying personal protection equipment from across the world and supporting local companies to produce them here. We have been improving the infrastructure in hospitals and  setting up temporary hospitals and finding more beds for COVID-19 patients. We have deployed tens of thousands of community health workers to detect cases in areas where people live. We are intensifying the programme of screening, testing, contact tracing and, where necessary, isolation.

Although we have made progress, we still need to do much more in the coming weeks to meet the expected demand.

You can also do much to prepare as individuals and families. Already many have made the effort to learn as much as they can about the disease, how to identify the symptoms and how to avoid getting infected or infecting others. Many people have thought about how they can go to school or work safely, and how they can change their shopping behaviour or how they worship to minimise the risk of infection.

Each household should look at how they can protect elderly people and those with underlying conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, TB or HIV. Do plan for the possibility that someone in the family may become infected and whether you will be able to isolate them from family members until they are better. If not, find out where the closest government quarantine site is. You should also plan ahead for what to do if someone gets sick.

Over the coming weeks, as we watch the coronavirus infections continue to rise, we must remember that we are not helpless.

And we should remember one simple, but fundamental, message: Don’t be alarmed. Be prepared.

With best wishes,

Minister Zwelini Mkhize Notes to Media Eastern Cape Coronavirus Response

Minister Zwelini Mkhize Notes to Media Eastern Cape Coronavirus Response
7 June 2020


Following a Ministerial and Presidential visit to the Western Cape this past week to address South Africa’s 65% COVID-19 burden in the province, we now turn our attention to Eastern Cape.


The Eastern Cape has similar numbers to Gauteng but it has recorded the second highest mortality numbers and its proximity and interconnectedness with the Western Cape makes the province especially vulnerable.

In addition there is an increase in infection rate amongst health care workers both in the public and private sectors. As at 6 June the Eastern Cape had recorded 258 COVID-19 positive HCW’s and 14 COVID-19 related deaths.

The Minister of Health will be returning to the Eastern Cape later this week whilst the Deputy Minister will go to the Western Cape to continue Ministerial oversight there. We have been engaging the MEC and the DG constantly and we receive daily situation analyses of the Provinces outbreak.


The province is dividing up the hotspots into subdistricts to facilitate a strong community based response. Decentralisation is particularly important for rural areas, to ensure they are adequately capacitated and empowered to successfully manage the epidemic locally. The MEC travelled the length and breadth of the province this past week assessing readiness of facilities in the various districts

On the last Ministerial visit some issues were identified and we intervened in the following:

Acute Shortage of PPE:
On 21 April 2020, Minister Zweli Mkhize, requested that the province be supported by a national team comprising Mr Wayne Ramkrishna (Malaria, Vectorborne and Zoonotic Diseases), Dr Kerrigan McCarthy (NICD), Mr Mzimasi Neti (NICD) and Mr Darren Muganhiri (NICD) On the same day, 21 April 2020, emergency supply was delivered to East London by the national team. A second batch was despatched from National on 22 April 2020 which was couriered to East London.


The team members from the NICD worked with the contact tracing and community screening teams while Mr Ramkrishna worked with the Finance, Clinical Management, Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) as well as the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) team to assess the PPE needs in the Eastern Cape (EC) province.


A stock audit was done and as at 8 May it was established that there was enough stock for 4 weeks in the province and it was a matter of ensuring the stock was equitably distributed across provinces.

A fast track mechanism was built into the procurement systems and agreement was put in place for more frequent reporting from the stock visibility system (SVS)

A 6 month needs modeling was done and presented to the Premier of the province.

National Department of Health updated its Occupational Health and Infection Prevention and Control guidelines to facilitate rational use of PPE.


Human Resources
20 members of the Cuban Brigade were sent to bolster the response, particularly community based response
840 additional nurses have been employed
We are in constant dialogue with health care workers and their unions on labour issues


Testing Capacity
We are clearing the testing backlog in the various centres:
In Port Elizabeth the backlog has been reduced from 13 000 to 5106, by Monday it should be around 4000 then by next week completely cleared. Heat lysis extraction of RNA has been a key innovation to increase turnover. Another machine is being sent to Port Elizabeth.


Umthatha backlog is currently at 8000 and we expect that to be cleared in the next few weeks as well.


East London is still a challenge because there is no resident pathologist. The Gene- Xpert does not require a pathologist to interpret and so that is what is being used in EL however there has been a shortage of kits. This week central office will be increasing the number of kits being sent to East London. NHLS is also looking into sending other testing modalities that don’t require  pathologists.


There will be intervention to be more targeted in the testing approach


Interprovincial issues
There are many essential seasonal workers who travel to the Western Cape and back between the provinces.


Both the provinces have been proactive in conducting road side screenings. The Western Cape now has a co-ordinated programme of screening and assessing seasonal travelers before they leave to go home to EC.

The two Premiers have briefed the Minister that Eastern Cape and Western Cape hold regular meetings to discuss ways to better manage the impact of inter-provincial movement to the spread of COVID-19.

For Further Queries
Dr L. Manzi
MLO Minister of Health
0826788979

From the Desk of the President (1st June 2020)

Today is the International Day for Protection of Children, which is commemorated around the world to draw attention to children’s rights and welfare. Fittingly, it is also the UN Global Day of Parents, honouring the commitment of parents and caregivers to the wellbeing of children.

On this day I want to thank the millions of parents, grandparents and caregivers around South Africa who continue to play an important role in the formative years in the lives of our youngest citizens. The encouragement, support and protection children receive from their parents and caregivers is essential for their future happiness and success.

After 65 days of a nation-wide lockdown, the country is today starting a new phase in its fight against the coronavirus. Many economic and social activities are restarting, including a phased resumption of schooling.

We have said that we are taking a gradual approach, guided by the advice of our scientists and led by the realities on the ground and consultations with stakeholders.

In the last few weeks, as we have prepared to return to school, we have had extensive and detailed discussions with all role-players in the education sphere. These have guided our approach to this complex and challenging task.

Now, in the last few days, several of these stakeholders – including teachers and parents – have expressed concern about the state of readiness in many schools. We have heard them, we welcome their contributions and are taking steps to address their concerns as well as proposals.

It is understandable that many parents and caregivers have mixed emotions at this time about the reopening of schools. There is relief that children will be able to resume their education after a prolonged absence from classrooms and lecture halls. Young people are eager to be in school again and to see friends and teachers.

But there is also apprehension on the part of parents, educators and learners themselves.

Parents want reassurance that the necessary precautions should be in place to adequately protect learners. The safety of our youngest citizens from a health and physical perspective is not negotiable. It is our foremost priority.

As we prepare for the gradual re-opening of our schools and places of higher learning, education authorities have been hard at work putting the necessary health and safety measures in place. That documentation regarding standard operating procedures have been provided to all schools. These standard operating procedures cover issues like training and orientation of screeners, timetable realignment and configuring classrooms to meet social distancing requirements.

We are continuing with the process of delivering personal protective equipment and ensuring the availability of water and sanitation services. Learning, once it commences, will take place under strict conditions with a correctly limited number of learners and students.

As parents, teachers, governing bodies and government, we are in agreement that no school should re-open until all the necessary precautions are in place. There needs to be transparency about the level of preparedness of each of the schools. Everyone who is a key role player, be they a parent, a school governing body member, a teacher or a government official should be able to have the correct information about the state of preparedness of each school. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the learning environment is safe.

I want to salute parents and caregivers, in particular, for the role they have played over the last two months. With schools closed, they have had to take greater daily responsibility for the education and development of their children. Many parents and caregivers have had to assist learners with their schoolwork at home, no doubt gaining a keen appreciation of the hard work being done by our teachers every day.

Once the lockdown is lifted and more learners return to school, we parents should continue to play a more active role in the education of our children, whether it is through joining school governing bodies, volunteering our services at schools or other forms of assistance. Parents can join in volunteering to clean schools, establishing vegetable gardens or being part of neighbourhood school safety committees. This can turn the schools into real, meaningful “community schools”.

Though we may feel anxious and fearful as our sons and daughters leave our care, we must draw courage from the fact that every effort is being made to protect them.

As parents, you have entrusted us with the welfare and safety of your children. It is a responsibility we do not take lightly. In the days and weeks to come, we will be closely monitoring the return to school.

If we follow the protocols and maintain all precautions – as parents, educators, communities and learners – we will effectively minimise the risk posed by the coronavirus.

Ultimately it is both our personal actions and our collective efforts that will keep our children safe. Whatever we do next, we need to do together.

With best wishes,

Minister Thulas Nxesi: Economic Cluster Media Briefing on Coronavirus COVID-19 Alert Level 3

Economic Cluster Media Briefing  held at the GCIS Media Auditorium, Pretoria

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that the country will be moving to Alert Level 3 of the Lockdown from June 1, 2020. This means that a lot more people will be going back to work. In the face of the pandemic, there are important actions that need to be taken to make sure that we reduce exposure to COVID-19.
We have therefore – in consultation with all the social partners at Nedlac – drafted amendments to the directive issued on the 29 April 2020, when we moved to level 4.

In terms of the draft amendments, employers who will be reopening their businesses in terms of Alert Level 3 will be required to do the following:

  • appoint a COVID-19 compliance officer,
  • undertake a risk assessment of the workplace,
  • and develop a plan for the return to work.
  • This must be done before re-opening their businesses – in consultation with representative trade unions and health and safety committees.

Key draft changes are:

  • The obligations of employers to employees who have comorbidities, or are over 60 years of age, have been clarified because of medical evidence that they are more vulnerable to COVID19 complications or death.
  • Workers who have had close contact involving a high risk of transmission with a worker – or workers – diagnosed with COVID-19 must be placed on 14 days quarantine with paid sick leave.  Department of Health guidelines set out the procedure for assessing the risk of transmission.
  • The requirements that all persons must wear masks in the workplace and that each employee must be given, free of charge, at least two masks are retained.  The requirement to wash masks at work has been removed after feedback from trade unions.
  • The draft Direction clarifies that employees have a right to refuse to work if they have a reasonable belief that the necessary precautions have not been put in place to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. Where such disputes arise, employers should seek to resolve these as quickly as possible.  If the dispute leads to a dismissal or other unfair labour practice, these cases may be referred to the CCMA (Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.)
  •  The Direction also clarifies that employers may not deduct the cost of Covid-19 precautions from employees’ wages or require them to pay for these.

These draft amendments to existing directives, will be finalised and published, upon approval.

We cannot overemphasise the importance of ensuring that employers – both public and private – mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic.

As the Department of Employment and Labour, one of the most important functions that we have to perform is to inspect workplaces to ensure healthy and safe working conditions. Unfortunately the Inspection and Enforcement Services Branch has seen low compliance, which, given the issues of the pandemic means that employers have to do more to ensure that their workplaces are safe.

Workplaces need to ensure that:

  • the correct number of employees return;
  • that office space and factory floors are in the desirable state; and
  • that cleanliness and hygiene are top of mind with workplaces having been deep-cleaned and vehicles disinfected.

As indicated, the state of compliance leaves much to be desired. For example, in the inspections conducted on Monday this week of 72 workplaces, 44 of them were not compliant.

As a result, the inspectors served 6 prohibition notices, 37 contraventions, and 6 improvement notices – just on the one day.

We need to change behaviour in response to the dangers posed by COVID-19. This message has not embedded itself in the consciousness of many employers – according to what we see in our statistics.

The cumulative picture from 30 March to 30 May is not positive. In that period, a total of 332 prohibition notices were served, which averages out at about 9 prohibition notices per day. Out of the total amount of 3,844 inspections, 2,116 complied while 1,724 failed to comply.

The situation is now further complicated by the fact that at Level 3 of lockdown, many more manual workers will be returning to work – often working for smaller, less resourced employers. It is therefore critical, that all parties are alert and redouble efforts to safeguard the workplace against the spread of the virus.

We would expect every employer to jump at the opportunity of saving their company by protecting their key asset – their workers.

Inspections have been, and will continue to be, conducted in the public and private sectors. It pains me to announce that as we send our inspectors out to the workplaces, they are also affected.

As we speak, a number of our inspectors here in Gauteng are in self-isolation following one of their colleagues testing positive. We also have had one fatality of one of our workers who passed on as a result of COVID-19. Again, the lesson is clear:

  • none of us is immune from the virus; and
  • every effort must be made to ensure the health and safety of all workplaces.

Income support (UIF) 

Since the start of the lockdown, the UIF has committed over R17-billion, and paid out just over R15-billion in COVID19 relief benefits to 3 million workers, through 200,000 employers and bargaining councils. These disbursements have been in lieu of salaries that could not be paid or as a top up where salaries have been reduced. Each of those 3 million recipients have families and dependents – greatly increasing the reach of the COVID19 benefit scheme.

We will continue to process the April applications as well as resolve outstanding queries.

Yesterday, we opened May applications, which we are currently processing. My apologies for the two-day delay caused by a break in the fibre cable. This situation has now been resolved.

We believe that with the move to Alert Level 3, the financial burden on the UIF will be eased somewhat, as more and more people go back to work.

The Fund’s primary responsibility – to pay ordinary UIF benefits to contributors – has not been interrupted during the lockdown, with some R2 billion disbursed to 280,000 claimants. We anticipate that ordinary claims will increase as unemployment increases in the wake of the pandemic. The UIF is preparing for this eventuality.

We are also committed to contribute to economic recovery and job preservation as required by section 5 (d) of the Unemployment Insurance Act. Labour Activation Programmes will remain a critical part of the mandate of the Fund along with other job creation programmes.

Looking to the future, serious discussions will be held at NEDLAC on the finalisation of the Comprehensive  Social Security and Retirement Reform (CSSRR) Framework – a holistic approach to the provision of a social security safety net into the future.

The Compensation Fund will be expected to deal with compensation for COVID19 contracted on work duty. Already we have received 116 claims and we have already accepted liability for 108. The majority of claimants are females who represent 91% of the claims.

The big numbers are from KZN with 63 cases (54%), followed by the Western Cape with 32 cases (28%) and Gauteng with 18 cases (16%) – with the majority of claims (83%) coming from healthcare practitioners.

Mitigation of the worst effects of economic meltdown (CCMA) CCMA Offices (Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) reopened for physical referrals last week and we all witnessed the large numbers of people who came to our offices.

Physical hearings started from Monday 18 May 2020 and the offices opened for physical referrals – walk-ins – on Wednesday 20 May 2020 – resulting in increased volumes of referrals.

For the month of April, there were 1,682 referrals – mostly dealing with retrenchment applications and dismissals.

Between April 1 and May 27, the CCMA has received cases which in total affect 28,000 employees.

In an attempt to reduce the spread the Covid-19 virus, and the need for applicants to have to physically go to a CCMA office to obtain referral forms – from the 8th of June 2020, the application and referral forms will be available electronically from the CCMA website or the #CCMAConnect App.

Normal TERS 

With regard to the Normal Temporary Employers/ Employees Relief Scheme applications – to support wages of employees in distressed companies – the CCMA has received 47 applications – which are currently being processed.

Productivity SA  

To turn things around, the Department will, through Productivity SA, focus on enhancing the operational efficiency of companies facing economic distress to preserve jobs and mitigate the retrenchment of workers. This will include implementing Turnaround strategies to restructure and improve the competitiveness.

Our interventions will focus mainly on the small businesses operating in the informal economy, many of which are struggling to graduate from informal operations into established businesses, thus limiting their potential to create jobs.

Opening of the Department Labour Centres:  

On the 1st of June 2020, Labour Centres will open primarily to assist clients with queries and applications for Normal UIF Benefits as well as Covid-19 TERS Benefit queries.

The department encourages the use of their online services for clients to be serviced remotely and avoid over-crowding as well as the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Clients should please note, a register must be maintained to capture details of all clients entering the building, their contact numbers and physical addresses. During this Covid-19 period, it is critical to have these details in order to conduct contact tracing, should the need arise.

The client service centres:

  • will be re-configured to ensure social distancing.
  • All clients must wear masks as they enter the premises to be served, and
  • queueing should adhere to the 1.5-metre social distancing protocol – which will be clearly marked on the floor.
  • All points of entry into the buildings will have hand sanitiser, disposable towels, waste bins and digital non-contact thermometers.

Thank you and stay safe.

Health on the determination of alert levels for Coronavirus Covid-19 hotspots

Clarity has been sought on the presentation made by the Minister of Health to the NCOP yesterday regarding the determination of alert levels for hotspots.

An old slide was presented stating hotspots would remain at level 4. That slide is now outdated and was inadvertently included in a presentation that had been updated. The slide was part of a presentation previously done by health department prior to the NCCC resolving on the final approach to be adopted for the country, which was subsequently announced by His Excellency, President MC Ramaphosa.

This note seeks to clarify the enquiries received.

Firstly, as announced by President MC Ramaphosa on the 24th May 2020, we confirm that the whole country will move to Alert Level 3 on the 1st June 2020.

Further to that, government has taken measures to identify areas that have been defined as epidemiological hotspots. As clearly explained by the President in his speech, these are areas that have more than 5 infected people per 100 000 population, or areas where the infections are increasing at a fast pace.

As it stands, government has immediately taken steps to intervene in areas that are regarded as hotspots by deploying experts and specialists who will implement measures to curb the spread. These areas also require heightened levels of tracing of contacts of positive patients, ensuring that those who are positive remain in quarantine/ isolation and those who cannot self-quarantine, are accommodated in quarantine facilities provided for by provinces.

This will limit the risk of further infection to other members of the communities, including their families (community transmission).

In some of these hotspots, cluster outbreaks have also been identified. This means, positive cases arising from people participating in the same activity within a specific area. These include factories, grocery shops, farms etc. Those areas also require a rapid response of screening, testing and the tracing of contacts. Cluster outbreaks drive the pandemic because spread occurs within the cluster then individuals take the virus home with them, thus causing community outbreaks. It is for this reason that we emphasize the importance of submitting to appropriate isolation once a person has tested positive or go into appropriate quarantine when a person has been identified as a direct contact of a positive patient. This reduces the risk of infecting others while waiting to be tested if you are a contact.

This therefore means that as the whole country moves to level 3, there will be constant assessment of each and every area and its rate of infection, in which case, further containment measures and restrictions may be considered. If the spread of the infection is not contained despite the above mentioned interventions, government will make a determination on whether to return that specific area, (i.e. metropolitan, district, sub district, ward) to alert level 4 or 5. This will be done rapidly and in an effort to contain and manage the spread, and also to ensure that our health facilities are not overwhelmed by the rapid rise of positive cases in that area.

This therefore means that as the whole country moves to level 3, there will be a constant assessment of each and every area and its rate of infection.

This raises the importance of social behaviour: members of the community can and must take it upon themselves to observe social distancing by keeping more than 1 metre distance from the next person; constantly wash and/ or sanitize hands; wearing a face mask; avoid touching ones face with unwashed hands; and clean surfaces we come into contact with. We also want to emphasise that staying at home is remains key and for those employees who can work from home, we urge employers to promote and facilitate this new culture. For those employees who must still go to work, they must embrace the new way of life which will protect them, their families and their fellow workers.


Dr Zwelini Mkhize
Minister of Health

Statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Call for a Day of Prayer

My fellow South Africans,

This evening, I would like to address you on matters that are of great importance to many people in our country – firstly, the call by religious leaders for a day of prayer as the country unites against the coronavirus pandemic, and, secondly, the decisions of the National Coronavirus Command Council on proposals made by religious leaders on the gradual resumption of certain religious activities.

The global coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on all South Africans.

Our Minister of Health today advised me that we now have over 20,000 people that have been infected and close to 500 people have lost their lives.

This continues to cause distress among all of us as citizens of South Africa.

At the same time, we are thankful that more than 11,000 people have recovered from the coronavirus.

Families are struggling to make ends meet.

Businesses have been badly hit and some have even had to be shut down.

People have lost their jobs and sources of income have dried up.

Because of the restrictions under the nation-wide lockdown, we have been unable to move around, to go to work, to study, to meet friends and family, and to attend religious services.

Yet, even at this time of crisis, we have cared for each other, shown compassion and solidarity, and sought to alleviate the plight of the most vulnerable.

This pandemic has also taken a toll on us emotionally and spiritually. It has shaken our sense of well-being and security. Many of us are anxious and fearful of both the present and the future.

As a nation, we have a responsibility to respond to this aspect of the pandemic with as much effort and urgency as we have responded to the health crisis, and as we have acted to relieve the economic and social effects on our people.

We have a responsibility to also take care of the spiritual, psychological and emotional well-being of all South Africans.

In helping our nation to cope with these difficulties, we acknowledge and welcome the call that has been made by our religious leaders for a day of prayer.

Prayer will comfort and strengthen us as we continue to confront this pandemic.

When I addressed the nation on Sunday, I said that we have been discussing with leaders of the religious community who have made a number of proposals around a gradual resumption of some religious activities and the manner in which they would like to exercise their functions.

The National Coronavirus Command Council discussed the proposals put to us by our religious leaders and determined that we should accede to the proposals put forward in accordance with certain norms and standards.

South Africans are a people of deep faith. Our faith is what has seen us through many dark times and sustained us.

We understand the great impact that the closure of places of worship have had on members of the faith community, and that this has worsened the distress of communities who are unable to worship in congregation.

Our leaders in the faith community provide spiritual guidance, care and counselling to millions of South Africans, and we are immensely grateful that from the beginning of our task of addressing this health crisis they have stood with us and provided advice, guidance, support and encouragement from the very beginning.

The faith community is an integral part of South African life and has made a great contribution in the fight against the coronavirus.

With our focus now on enabling our people to cope during this crisis and rebuilding our shattered economy, as well as assisting individuals and businesses whose livelihoods have been negatively impacted, we recognise and appreciate the important role the faith community has played in the provision of spiritual support and social relief.

Much of it has been done under extremely difficult circumstances and with minimal resources.

In such a time of crisis, the noble values that are shared by all faith communities have truly come to the fore – of charity and doing good works, of helping the needy, of feeding the hungry and caring for the sick.

Although the nation-wide lockdown has curtailed the activities of our faith based organisations, we have strongly felt their presence.

They have helped to keep our spirits up. They have encouraged us to remain focused. Above all they have consistently reminded our people that the lockdown regulations are in place for the common good and the welfare of us all.

As we now prepare to move to coronavirus alert level 3 on the 1st of June, we recognise and appreciate their deep desire to return to their duties, to serve their communities and to serve society.

After consideration following consultation with our religious leaders, we have therefore determined that as part of the regulations for alert level 3, the current restrictions on congregational worship will be eased in a carefully measured way.

Places of worship may re-open subject to strict restrictions, which are absolutely necessary if we are to prevent infections from rising in accordance with norms and standards that will be set out in the regulations.

Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and other recognised places of worship may resume services, but these will be limited in size to 50 people or less depending on the space available.

Social distancing will have to be observed and all worshippers and participants will have to wear face masks in line with the current regulations.

All religious organisations must put protocols in place for, among other things, thoroughly cleaning and sanitising places for worship before and after services.

Our faith communities must ensure that any religious rituals that carry even the slightest possibility of exposing worshippers to risk should be avoided, and that where they form an essential part of religious practice, that sanitisation is paramount.

Our religious leaders will be recognised as essential religious frontline workers for purposes of spiritual counselling to members of their faith organisations.

Religious leaders will continue to officiate at funerals of no more than 50 people.

Our religious leaders occupy positions of immense trust and authority in our communities, and need to play a proactive role in raising the level of public awareness around the coronavirus in their services, in faith communication groups, and through their pastoral work and activities.

We welcome the offers that have been made by several religious bodies to make their facilities available for the fight against the coronavirus – by providing additional space for school lessons, for quarantine, for screening and testing or for places of shelter for survivors of gender-based violence.

This new phase of managing the coronavirus as a constant in our daily lives will be in many respects more difficult.

It demands vigilance and it will continue to demand sacrifices of us all.

The social distancing and hygiene measures that are in place under the lockdown will have to continue way into the future, and cannot be abandoned or compromised.

Let us continue to be guided by the overriding principle of doing whatever it takes to preserve life.

Our faith-based organisations have shown in both word and deed their commitment to the national effort to combat the coronavirus.

We will continue to engage with various constituencies across society around their concerns and the suggestions they have to move safely towards easing various restrictions.

Fellow South Africans,

Throughout this difficult time, we have remained firm and united.

Yet we know the race is far from won, and that the collective energies and efforts of all our people will be needed now as never before.

I therefore urge all South Africans to heed the call of the leaders of our various faith communities for a national day of prayer on Sunday, the 31st of May, when we will once again come together to pray for the healing of our land and the protection of our people.

On this day, wherever we may be, I call upon you to turn your thoughts to all who have been affected by this pandemic.

On this day, we should remember those who are working to keep us safe, those who are suffering and grieving.

Whether you are a person of faith or not, there is one belief that unites us, and that is our belief in South Africa, in its people, in their courage and in their ability to overcome even the greatest of tribulations.

As we worked tirelessly to heal the divisions of the past, so too will our united action bring us healing from this pandemic.

May God bless South Africa and protect her people.

I thank you.

COVID-19 IMPACT ON THE ECONOMY

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) has noted with concern a series of recent comments and news articles that give the impression that the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Mr Ebrahim Patel, has underplayed the extent of the costs that Covid-19 and the lockdown will impose on the economy. This is exactly the opposite of the truth. The impression seems to be based on an interview that Minister Patel conducted with the Sunday Times shortly after he had addressed Members of Parliament regarding Covid-19 in a session that was broadcasted live.

In the address to the Parliamentary Committee, he stated that the pandemic has caused a massive and rapid shock on the economy, starting globally and transmitted rapidly to South Africa and the rest of the continent, with a dual impact on the demand and supply-side of the economy. He also stated that  the impact on GDP will be very significant – with a projected recession with severe contraction of the economy in 2020, accompanied by big job losses and firm closures with high levels of social hardship.

Minister Patel told the Parliamentary Committee: “Our work has indicated that the pandemic will affect the South African economy in very deep and significant ways. The estimates of the impact vary. The work is still being done as we see the extent to which different parts of the economy are affected.” He illustrated with estimates from the IMF, SARB and IDC which projected declines in gross domestic product of approximately 6%.

In the interview Minister Patel made the self-evident point that it was too early to get a firm figure of the extent of the damage with a range of projections by different economists, and that one of the numbers in the public domain referred to a lockdown-cost of about R13 billion a day. This he pointed out, was simply based on taking the size of the GDP (about R5 trillion) and dividing it by the number of days in a year. Such a figure is clearly at best a guesstimate of impact since the full extent of the cost would depend on a number of factors; and does not take into account that key sectors were working during the lockdown, including the agriculture and food-processing sectors as well as healthcare and parts of mining.

Unfortunately, the subsequent media story in our view did not contextualise the reply adequately, as it focused on only the Minister Patel’s cautioning of this particular estimate.

On 8 May 2020 Minister Patel addressed a meeting of about 100 CEOs convened by BLSA, where he stated that the pandemic was likely to have a devastating effect on the economy, though the extent of the damage was not yet clear; that many firms in South Africa were in difficulty as a result of the current circumstances and millions of workers were without an income.

The Department would like to reiterate  that Minister Patel has consistently put forward the view on the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the SA economy since the declaration of the national disaster. He pointed out already on 24 March 2020 at a media briefing that the pandemic will put a strain on the economy, including small business owners and ordinary citizens. Minister Patel also called for all South Africans and corporates to pull together to ensure that our people and economy come through this challenge with their lives, their jobs, their businesses, their livelihoods and their property intact.

The Department would also like to put it on record that Minister Patel recognises the very significant impact of the pandemic and the lockdown on the economy. It is imperative that there is a more measured and responsible public commentary during this trying times in our country in particularly and the globe in general, given the enormous consequence on human lives if we get it wrong.

President Cyril Ramaphosa: Developments in South Africa’s risk-adjusted strategy to manage the spread of Coronavirus COVID-19

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.

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.

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.

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 nation-wide 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.

HEALTH MINISTERS STATEMENT ON PROF GLENDA GRAYS PUBLIC ATTACK OF GOVERNMENT BASED ON INACCURATE INFORMATION

In the past week, my office has been inundated with media requests for comments regarding Prof Glenda Gray’s public utterances on government’s decision relating to the lockdown.

The article referred to has some of the utterances that have been directly attributed to Prof Gray, as follows:

  • We are seeing children with malnutrition for the first time (at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital). We have not seen malnutrition for decades and so we are seeing it for the first time in the hospital
  • “…but the de-escalation, month on month, to various levels is nonsensical and unscientific.
  • We believe, as scientists, that we give and are giving the government good advice and why they decided not to take the advice or engage readily with the scientists is unknown. Why have experts if you dont care what they think?
  • This strategy is not based on science and is completely unmeasured. Its almost as if someone is sucking regulations out of their thumb and implementing rubbish, quite frankly.
  • We punish children and kick them out of school and we deny them education. For what? Where is the scientific evidence for that?

For the benefit of the public, it is important to mention that the Ministerial Advisory Committees are not unusual within the Department of Health. The National Health Act makes provision that advisory or technical committees may be appointed as may be necessary to achieve the health objectives as provided for in the Act and its Regulations.

As it stands, the Department continues to benefit from experts who are specialised in various fields of health through their participation in different Ministerial Advisory Committees. To illustrate this point, these are some of the committees that are in place: the Ministerial Advisory Group on Immunisation, the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Organ Transplant, the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Health Pricing, the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Prevention and Control of Cancer and the Ministerial Advisory Committee on NHI.

Over the years, the role of the advisory committees has proven to be useful in providing support to the Health Ministry by offering advice on various matters in line with their terms of reference. These advices are presented to the Minister who considers them. Thereafter the Minister may elect to engage other stakeholders or departmental officials on such advice for further research or input. This advice is then accepted or rejected based on the holistic view that the Minister will consider as the Member of the Executive responsible for Health.

This has not been any different with the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19. This committee was appointed on the 26th March 2020. The terms of reference are very specific: “the MAC on COVID-19 is an advisory committee and does not have delegated powers to act on behalf of, or to commit the Minister or Government to any actions”. They further state that “each member will act with the highest professional and ethical standard at all times”.

It is important to highlight that to date, the MAC on COVID-19 has provided the Ministry of Health with 50 (fifty) advisories. Also, all these advisories presented have all been accepted. The Minister has utilised these in the implementation of the Department of Health’s response to COVID-19. These advisories have also been included in presentations to various stakeholders and more importantly, the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), chaired by President Ramaphosa. Throughout this period, the NCCC has welcomed these presentations. In fact, the President has consistently acknowledged and commended the scientific data made available by the Department of Health through the MAC. This data is taken into account as part of broader consultations and inputs from other departments, different provinces and various stakeholders including business and labour.

I have seen it fit to give this detailed background in order to highlight that at no point has the Department of Health or Government as a whole ignored and not responded to the advice of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19. The statement made by Prof Glenda Gray is at the least devoid of the truth. Having read the article, I have been taken aback by the obvious inaccuracies it contains which have in my view, caused unnecessary sensationalism and doubt on the work and effort of the government in dealing with COVID-19.

We will keep emphasizing this, as government we do not claim to have it all figured out when it comes to COVID-19. No country does. The President has constantly and correctly stated that we are in unchartered waters. But we are committed to doing everything in our powers to protect the lives of our citizens.

I must pause to mention that I have also been stunned by media queries on why I appointed Prof Abdool Karim as Chairperson of the COVID-19 and “sidelined” Prof Glenda Gray. Save to state the obvious that such appointments are a prerogative of the Minister, I find such a question disingenuous as there is nothing that disqualifies Prof Abdool Karim to chair this MAC. In this regard, I continue to urge members of the media that during this period we must be made to respond to issues of substance and not matters that seem to want to sow division within the COVID-19 MAC and cause mischief.

It is therefore important to publicly place on record that Prof Glenda Gray made factually incorrect and unfounded statements:

1.

  • FALSEWe are seeing children with malnutrition for the first time (at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital). We have not seen malnutrition for decades and so we are seeing it for the first time in the hospital
  • FACTS / RESPONSE: There has been a reduction in the number of cases of malnutrition that have been seen at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital POPD and the total admissions during the month of March and April 2020, when compared to the previous 4 years. To illustrate this, in April 2019 there were 2885 patients seen and 500 admissions. However, in April 2020 there were 834 patients seen and 146 admissions. I have been advised by the Department’s officials that at a subsequent COVID-19 MAC meeting, Prof Velaphi, the Head of Paediatrics at the hospital, raised this concern and asked why Prof Gray would mislead the public by giving inaccurate information. In response, Prof Gray merely stated that she had relied on what she had heard from “other colleagues”. However, these colleagues were not disclosed. This emphasizes the warning we have been to the media and public not to just rely on anecdotal evidence. This ends up causing unnecessary anxiety to our citizens.

2.

  • FALSEWe believe, as scientists, that we give and are giving the government good advice and why they decided not to take the advice or engage readily with the scientists is unknown. Why have experts if you dont care what they think?
  • FACTS / RESPONSE: Since the establishment of the MAC, 50 advisories have been given to the Minister of Health, all of which have been accepted. Ironically, last week Prof Gray, as Chairperson of the Research Subcommittee was part of the team that was preparing an advisory to the Ministry of Health in relation to the lockdown. This advisory had not been submitted to the Minister of Health when Prof Gray elected to speak to the media. There was a platform that had been created but this was overlooked even before making input through the Department of Health channels. She elected to do so through the media.
  • FALSEThis strategy is not based on science and is completely unmeasured. Its almost as if someone is sucking regulations out of their thumb and implementing rubbish, quite frankly.
  • FACTS / RESPONSE: There are existing structures in government that have taken into account various factors, including scientific, socio economic, etc. The comment that government thumb sucks its decision not only undermines the joint work and effort that the NCCC, cabinet and government as a whole has been engaged in. But it is also unprofessional and unbecoming conduct from a member of the MAC who has direct access to the Ministry and the Department. In my view it undermines and brings into disrepute the institution that Prof. Gray works for which is an entity of the Department of Health, the MRC.
  • FALSEWe punish children and kick them out of school and we deny them education. For what? Where is the scientific evidence for that?
  • FACTS/RESPONSE: The Department of Basic Education has been engaged in various consultations with its stakeholders on the correct approach to take in the process of opening schools. The Minister has also presented the Department’s strategy in the correct forums and is exercising her executive powers based on information and evidence before her to recommend to government on how to proceed. It can never be Prof Gray’s place to make such comments without being aware of the details, the advice and the process the Department of Basic education has followed.

Divergent views by scientists are healthy and welcome. The MAC provides this platform for robust engagement of these top scientists who are leaders of various respectable institutions and organisations.

However I must urge all those who are contributing to the thought process and science behind the decisions ultimately undertaken by Government to desist from potentially destructive behaviour and continue to engage constructively with Government as they are mandated.

As head of the Medical Research Council, Prof. Gray has access to the Minister and the Department but never once raised this matter directly with ourselves, yet she has never failed to raise other issues of concern beforehand.

It must be understood that regulations are influenced by inputs from the public and her views would have been considered had she made submission in a normal way when public comments were called for. It is exactly for this reason that government has been bold enough to even make amendments to some regulations based on public inputs. However, Prof Glenda Gray chose not to use this platform.

We may not always agree but we will listen and consider input brought to us. We have said that government will not fight this pandemic alone. We need partners in our society to assist us with advice and even mobilizing social behaviour in order to manage the spread of this virus. It is for this reason that we appreciate various social partners who have pledged their support to this cause. We will continue to work together until we conquer this coronavirus battle..

From the desk of the President (18th May 2020)

Dear Fellow South African,

We often take our healthy and robust democracy for granted. Yet it is probably our greatest asset in our momentous struggle to overcome the coronavirus pandemic.

We have among the most politically-engaged citizenry in the world. A poll in 2018 by the Pew Research Center shows South Africans are strongly inclined to take political action about issues they feel most strongly about, such as health care, education, freedom of speech and corruption.

The poll confirms much that we already know about ourselves. We enjoy nothing more than robust engagement with our government and among ourselves on the burning issues of the day. We have an active civil society ever ready to safeguard our fundamental freedoms and rights.

One of the triumphs of our democracy is that every South African believes the Constitution protects them and that the courts are a fair and impartial arbiter of their interests.

I got thinking on these matters during a recent visit to the Eastern Cape to assess the province’s coronavirus state of readiness.

I was asked by a journalist whether I was concerned at the pending litigation challenging certain provisions of the Disaster Management Act. This law is the basis for all the regulations promulgated under the national state of disaster we declared to combat coronavirus.

Since the start of this crisis, a number of people have exercised their right to approach the courts. The lockdown regulations were challenged in the very first week of the lockdown by a private citizen from Mpumalanga who wanted an exemption from the travel prohibition to attend a funeral.

In the 7 weeks that have followed, there have been legal challenges from a number of individuals, religious bodies, political parties, NGOs and from business organisations against one measure or more of the lockdown provisions they were unhappy with. Some have succeeded in their legal challenges and some have not. Some had approached the courts on the basis of the urgency of their cases had their urgency arguments dismissed and others have found other avenues for the relief they sought. Others have subsequently withdrawn their applications following engagement with government.

While we would prefer to avoid the need for any legal action against government, we should accept that citizens who are unhappy with whatever action that government has decided on implementing have a right to approach our courts for any form of relief they seek. This is a normal tenet of a constitutional democracy and a perfectly acceptable practice in a country founded on the rule of law.

We have checks and balances in place to ensure that every aspect of governance is able to withstand constitutional scrutiny. Where we are found wanting, we will be held to account by our courts and, above all, by our citizens. Besides our courts, our Chapter 9 institutions exist to advance the rights of citizens, as do the bodies tasked with oversight over the law enforcement agencies.

As I told the journalist, every South African has a right to approach the courts and even I, as President, could never stand in the way of anybody exercising that right.

There has been, and will continue to be, robust and strident critique of a number of aspects of our national response to coronavirus, from the data modelling and projections, to the economic effects of the lockdown, to the regulations. As government we have neither called for such critique to be tempered or for it to be silenced.

To the contrary, criticism, where it is constructive, helps us to adapt and to move with agility in response to changing circumstances and conditions. It enriches public debate and gives us all a broader understanding of the issues at play.

We have consistently maintained that we rely on scientific, economic and empirical data when it comes to making decisions and formulating regulations around our coronavirus response. To the greatest extent possible under these challenging circumstances, we aim for consultation and engagement. We want all South Africans to be part of this national effort. The voices of ordinary citizens must continue to be heard at a time as critical as this.

The coronavirus pandemic and the measures we have taken to combat it have taken a heavy toll on our people. It has caused huge disruption and hardship. Although we can point to the progress we have made in delaying the transmission of the virus, there is still a long way to go. The weeks and months ahead will be difficult and will demand much more from our people.

The pandemic will therefore continue to place an enormous strain on our society and our institutions. Even as we gradually open up the economy, the impact on people’s material conditions will be severe. For as long as this is the case, the potential for conflict, discord and dissatisfaction will remain.

As we navigate these turbulent waters, our Constitution is our most important guide and our most valued protection. Our robust democracy provides the strength and the resilience we need to overcome this deep crisis.

Just as government appreciates that most court applicants are motivated by the common good, so too should we recognise that the decisions taken by government are made in good faith and are meant to advance, and not to harm, the interests of South Africans.

Our foremost priority remains to save lives. Our every decision is informed by the need to advance the rights to life and dignity as set out in our Constitution.

We will continue to welcome different – even dissenting – viewpoints around our national coronavirus response. All viewpoints aid us and help us to work better and smarter.

The exercise of the fundamental freedoms of expression, association and speech is a barometer of the good health of our democracy. But much more than that, these rights are essential to the success of our national and collective struggle to overcome the coronavirus.

With best wishes,

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA ON SOUTH AFRICA’S RESPONSE TO THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC, 13 MAY 2020

My Fellow South Africans,

This week, our country reached a sad moment in the progression of the coronavirus pandemic, as we recorded our 219th death from the disease.

Every life lost is a tragedy.

These 219 people who passed away had families, they had dependents, friends and colleagues.

Their lives were cut short by a virus that has caused human and economic devastation across the world.

In recording and reporting on the daily figures of new infections, deaths and recoveries –– we can too easily lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with human lives.

This coronavirus is taking a heavy toll not only on the health of our people, but also on our people’s ability to earn a living, to feed themselves and their families, to learn and to develop, and to enjoy many of the basic freedoms that we daily take for granted.

This evening, let us keep in our thoughts and prayers all those who have been infected by the coronavirus, all those who have lost loved ones, and also those who have endured – and continue to endure – great hardship because of the pandemic.

It is nearly 7 weeks since we implemented a nation-wide lockdown.

During this time, South Africans have demonstrated great courage, resilience and responsibility.

I once again thank you for the sacrifices you have made thus far.

I would like to say, as I have said before, that despite its duration and its severity, the lockdown was absolutely necessary.

Without the lockdown the number of coronavirus infections would have soared uncontrollably, our health facilities would have been overwhelmed and many thousands more South Africans would have died.

From the very beginning, our response has been guided by advice from world-leading experts from our own country and across the globe.

We have also benefited from the guidance from the World Health Organisation.

The experiences that other nations have been through have also given us invaluable insights.

There have been several projections about the possible path the disease would have taken without our swift and decisive action.

As more data has become available, these projections have been updated and refined.

The best current estimate is that, without the lockdown and the other measures we have taken, at least 80,000 South Africans could have been infected by now.

And the death toll could have been at least 8 times higher than it is.

As it stands, there are 219 people in South Africa who have succumbed to this disease.

By contrast, at a similar stage in the progression of the disease, the United States had recorded over 22,000 deaths and the United Kingdom over 19,000 deaths.

We should never forget that the purpose of the lockdown was to delay the spread of the virus and prevent a huge surge of infections.

So far, we have been successful in the manner we as South Africans have responded and dealt with this virus.

The percentage of cases identified out of all the tests conducted – what is known as the positivity rate – has remained low and stable.

The level of confirmed infections in South Africa is around 181 people per million of the population.

By contrast, countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and Singapore have between 2,400 and 4,600 coronavirus cases per million people.

It is significant that out of the 12,074 confirmed cases in South Africa, we have recorded 4,745 recoveries.

By delaying the spread of the disease, we have been able to strengthen the capacity of our health system and to put in place wide-ranging public health programmes to better manage the inevitable increase in infections.

We now have nearly 25,000 additional beds available for quarantine.

We have been able to source and produce substantial quantities of personal protective equipment for health workers, vital medical equipment and other supplies.

Using the valuable time which the lockdown gave us, we have managed to significantly expand our screening and testing programme.

In all, our field workers have now screened over 9 million people, and we have conducted nearly 370,000 coronavirus tests.

This is the largest and most extensive public health mobilisation in the history of our country.

It has been made possible by the hard work and dedication of thousands of community workers, nurses, doctors and other health workers.

They made enormous sacrifices to ensure the success of the lockdown.

By answering the call to stay at home and stay safe, you, the people of South Africa, have helped us to save many lives.

As we have strengthened our public health response, we have introduced several vital measures to support the companies, workers and households that have been severely affected by the lockdown.

We have introduced an economic and social relief package worth over R500 billion to help companies in distress, to save jobs and to provide some income to informal workers and poor households.

Since it was established, the special COVID-19 relief scheme of the Unemployment Insurance Fund has paid out over R11 billion to 2 million employees employed by over 160,000 companies in distress.

This will help to keep companies afloat and save millions of jobs.

The various funds that we established to provide support for small businesses, including the initiatives of the Department of Small Business Development, the Department of Tourism, the Industrial Development Corporation and the South African Future Trust, have provided direct assistance to over 27,000 enterprises.

As of today, the R200 billion COVID-19 Loan Guarantee Scheme, which is guaranteed by the government, has begun to process applications from small and medium-sized businesses.

At the beginning of this month, government paid out an additional R5 billion to social grant recipients to assist poor households at a time when other sources of income have been disrupted.

We have opened applications for the special COVID-19 grant of R350 a month for unemployed South Africans who receive no other form of assistance from government.

By the close of business today, some 3 million South Africans had already applied for this assistance.

These temporary measures will be in place for six months.

We will spare no effort to ensure our most vulnerable citizens are supported and protected during this difficult time.

The scale of the measures we have taken, including tax relief and interventions by the South African Reserve Bank, is historic.

The Solidarity Fund, which was set up to support the coronavirus response, has raised around R2.7 billion in commitments from over 175,000 individuals and more than 1,500 companies and foundations.

We are grateful to the many governments and organisations that continue to generously support our coronavirus response.

In addition to those that I have previously recognised, I wish to express our appreciation to the government and the people of the United States for the donation of 1,000 ventilators.

I also want to recognise the commitment of the ELMA Group of Foundations of R2 billion to mitigate the impact of coronavirus on vulnerable communities in Africa.

This includes an immediate contribution of R250 million to South Africa’s Solidarity Fund.

We are determined that our response matches the proportions of the crisis and helps to ensure that the foundations of our economy are protected.

There have been very disturbing reports of increased levels of gender-based violence since the lockdown started.

The scourge of gender-based violence continues to stalk our country as the men of our country declared war on the women.

We have developed an emergency pathway for survivors to ensure that the victims of gender-based violence are assisted.

One of the interventions we have made is to ensure lockdown regulations be structured in a manner that a woman can leave her home to report abuse without the fear of a fine, intimidation or further violence.

Now, two months after we declared a national state of disaster, we are ready to shift to a new phase in our response to the coronavirus pandemic.

On the first of May, we moved to Alert Level 4 and began the phased easing of the national lockdown.

This was in line with our risk-adjusted strategy through which we sought to slow down the rate of infection and flatten the curve.

We are now preparing for a further easing of the lockdown and a gradual opening of the economy.

I will repeat what I have said before: if we lift the lockdown too abruptly and too quickly, we risk a rapid and unmanageable surge in infections.

We will therefore continue to proceed cautiously, informed by the best available evidence and guided by the advice of local and international experts.

Our goal is to steadily increase economic activity while putting measures in place to reduce the transmission of the virus and provide adequate care for those who become infected and need treatment.

When I last addressed you, I outlined the five level alert system that we have introduced to guide this process.

At the time, the country was at alert level 5, which has the most stringent restrictions on movement and economic activity.

Alert level 4 – which is the current level across the country – retains most of the lockdown regulations but permits the gradual opening up of certain parts of the economy.

Alert levels 3 to 1 allow a progressively greater relaxation of restrictions.

As I indicated then, some areas of the country may be designated at a particular alert level, while others may be designated at other levels.

This would be done according to the rate of infection in an area and the state of readiness and the capacity of its health facilities to cope with treating infected people.

For now, infections are mostly concentrated in a few metropolitan municipalities and districts in the country.

it is important that we maintain stringent restrictions in these areas and restrict travel out of these areas to parts of the country with lower rates of infection.

We will immediately begin a process of consultation with relevant stakeholders on a proposal that by the end of May, most of the country be placed on alert level 3, but that those parts of the country with the highest rates of infection remain on level 4.

We will make further announcements after the completion of the consultations

In the coming days, we will also be announcing certain changes to level 4 regulations to expand permitted business activities in the retail space and ecommerce and reduce restrictions on exercise.

Some have questioned whether our approach in dealing with the coronavirus has been at the expense of the livelihoods of our people.

Our strategic approach has been based on saving lives and preserving livelihoods.

Our key objective has always been to slow down the infection rate through a number of interventions in our coronavirus prevention toolbox.

Each of these prevention measures are crucial and non-negotiable. They are:

– Lockdown (to achieve extreme social distancing)
– Social distancing
– Adopting hand hygiene practices by washing hands regularly with water and soap or sanitiser
– Cough etiquette including coughing into your elbow or a tissue
– Wearing cloth masks whenever you are in public places
– Use of personal protection equipment by all health workers
– Frequent cleaning of the work environment and other public spaces
– Symptom screening
– Testing, isolation, quarantine and contact tracing

It is in the implementation of all these preventative measures that we will overcome this disease.

The success of our efforts to limit transmission of the virus depends on finding those who are infected as early as possible, tracing their contacts and isolating them so they cannot pass on the virus to others.

Our door-to-door screening campaign in vulnerable communities across the country resulted in over 100,000 people being referred for testing.

This gave us a good indication of the extent of the infection among the population, but we now need a screening and testing programme that is targeted to areas where people are more likely to be infected.

This will involve the identification of infection hotspots using a combination of technology, surveillance data and epidemiological mapping, enabling the rapid deployment of dedicated screening and testing teams to these areas.

Those found to be positive should either self-isolate or be isolated in suitable and independently inspected facilities.

Most importantly, this new phase will require each of us to change our own behaviour in profound ways.

There needs to be a fundamental shift in our thinking and our way of life.

We need to take personal responsibility for our own health and the health of others.

Let us remember that although the lockdown has slowed down the rate of transmission, the coronavirus is very much still present – and will be present among us for a long time to come.

We have been warned that infections will inevitably rise as the lockdown measures are eased, as has happened in many countries.

We also know that the coronavirus will continue to be a global health threat for some time to come, and that the fight against COVID-19 needs to become part of our daily lives.

Our success in overcoming the coronavirus will ultimately be determined by the changes we make in our behaviour.

As restrictions are eased, we will need to observe social distancing even more carefully, wear face masks whenever we leave home, wash hands regularly with soap and water or sanitiser, and avoid contact with other people.

I have been encouraged that so many people are wearing face masks in public since the start of Alert Level 4.

We will need to re-organise workplaces, schools, universities, colleges and other public places to limit transmission.

We will need to adapt to new ways of worshipping, socialising, exercising and meeting that minimise opportunities for the virus to spread.

It is our actions now that will determine whether the advantage we gained through the lockdown can be sustained.

It is our actions now – individually and together – that will determine whether the great sacrifices that people have made over these last two months will ultimately save the lives of thousands of South Africans and spare our country from the huge devastation that this pandemic can cause.

The transition to the next phase of the coronavirus response will in many ways be more difficult than the present one.

The risk of infection outbreaks will increase as more people return to work.

This calls for vigilance, responsibility and discipline from all of us.

My fellow South Africans,

Over the last 7 weeks, you have been asked to endure much and to sacrifice much.

On more than one occasion, I have stood before you and asked you to accept stringent restrictions on your daily lives, knowing that these will bring great hardship.

You have heeded these calls, firmly convinced that these measures are necessary for the health and the well-being – indeed the survival – of our young nation.

In return for everything that is being asked of you, there are a few fundamental things that you ask of us, your leaders.

And that is why we must acknowledge that as we have confronted this unprecedented challenge, there may have been times when we have fallen short of your expectations.

Some of the actions we have taken have been unclear, some have been contradictory and some have been poorly explained.

Implementation has sometimes been slow and enforcement has sometimes been inconsistent and too harsh.

This evening, I want to reaffirm my commitment and the commitment of the government I lead to take whatever action is necessary to safeguard the life, the dignity and the interests of the South African people.

The last time I addressed you, I said that we will soon be embarking on the third phase of our economic response to the coronavirus crisis by outlining a clear strategy for economic recovery.

Cabinet is seized with this issue and will be announced when the work has been completed.

We are determined and committed:

to ensure that all government decisions are taken in good faith, that they are reasonable and based on empirical evidence, and that they do not cause more harm than good;

to be transparent, to take the nation into confidence and to do so regularly;

to continue to be forthright on the state of the pandemic. You want to know when things are bad, and be told when they could get worse;

to continue to engage and consult with you;

to ensure that we continue to mobilise every resource at our disposal to support the most vulnerable, and to give the greatest support to those most in need; and,

to make sure that the funds that are dedicated to our coronavirus response are not wasted and are not stolen.

Above all, I pledge once again to ensure that your rights are respected and upheld, especially by those who have been entrusted with this responsibility.

As your President, as this government, we are firmly committed to meeting the expectations you rightly have of us.

Where we have disappointed, we will continue to make amends.

Where we make mistakes, we will continue to correct them.

Our collective struggles over the past months have taught us much about ourselves and about each other.

We have also learnt a lot about this virus.

Although there may have been differences and disagreements, there has also been kindness, empathy and compassion.

There has been courage and solidarity.

A very different South Africa and world awaits us.

The greatest test will be our willingness to embrace change.

Let us rise to meet this challenge.

Let us stand as one family and one nation to build a new and stronger society.

The days before us will be difficult.

But we will draw strength from what we have achieved.

We should recall the words spoken by President Nelson Mandela 20 years ago when our country was being devastated by another pandemic.

He said:

“In the face of the grave threat posed by HIV/AIDS, we have to rise above our differences and combine our efforts to save our people.

“History will judge us harshly if we fail to do so now.”

As I end, let me offer the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, delivered at a difficult time in the life of his own country:

The state of this nation is good
The heart of this nation is sound
The spirit of this nation is strong
The faith of this nation is eternal.

May God bless South Africa and protect her people.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE PRESIDENCY OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA

Minister for Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu briefs the media on the response to #Covid19 for level 4 risk adjustment approach

Minister Lindiwe Zulu: Social Development response to Coronavirus Covid 19 Level 4 Risk Adjusted Approach

Sanibonani; Molweni; Dumelang; Abusheni; Good morning.

Thank you for joining us in this briefing from the comfort of your homes and workplaces. The purpose of today’s briefing is to provide you with updated social development response measures against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. This update is in the context of level 4 of the lockdown.

Let me thank all the women and men on our frontline of the fight against this disease. Mangibonge futhi wonke umuntu osebenza ngezidingo zethu. Akufanele sikhohlwe ukuthi sadalwa ukuthi sikwazi ukuzimela. We truly appreciate your dedication and commitment in carrying out these essential services.

Ke rata ho leboha motho e mong le e mong ya latelang melao ya twantsho ya lefu lena. Batho bohle ba hlokomela hore lefu lena le kotsi haholo. Therefore, we must remain united in our determination to beat and overcome this virus.

We continue to reiterate the importance of each and every one of us to: wash hands regularly, stay at home, go out only when it is absolutely necessary and essential, and observe the appropriate guidance on physical distancing.

Last week, I convened one of our regular Extended Special MinMEC meetings with all Provincial MECs of Social Development to coordinate and ramp up our interventions to ensure all vulnerable groups in our communities are appropriately supported to access basic necessities to cope with the new normal. I must really appreciate MECs for their continued support throughout this time – we are seeing a much stronger coordination with Provinces. We have agreed that we will upscale our communication through various platforms to ensure that the public is well aware of all the services provided by the Departments of Social Development’s Portfolio.

I am truly honoured to work with the calibre of MECs whose support is constant and unconditional. I thank each and everyone of them and their teams.

With regards to regulations on the extension of lapsed disability grants;

We are taking proactive measures to protect the livelihoods of the most vulnerable in our society during this difficult period. To this end, we have published the regulations which give effect to the extension of temporary disability grants from the date they were suspended until the end of October this year. This extension applies to all temporary disability grants that lapsed between February and March.

Izicelo zama grant wokukhubazeka azo vumelwa kuze kuphele uOkthoba.

In cases where the temporary disability grants were suspended, they will be reinstated and paid until the end of October. The same applies to the Care Dependency and Foster Child Grants that are due to lapse during the lock down period. The payment of these reinstated grants will take place before the end of May.

We hope this extension will give persons with disabilities some peace of mind in the midst of this deadly pandemic.

With regards to the Amendment of regulation relating to the movement of children;

We have amended the regulations with regard to the movement of children between co-holders of parental responsibilities or caregiver as guided in Section 1 (1) of the Children’s Act (Act No. 38 of 2005). Under the new regulations, the movement of children between co-holders of parental responsibilities who reside in different metropolitan areas, district municipalities or provinces is allowed, provided the co-holders of the parental responsibilities or the caregiver has:

a:      a court order; or

b:      a parental responsibilities and rights agreement or parenting plan, registered with the Family Advocate; or

c:       a permit issued by a magistrate where which corresponds with Form 3 of the regulations if the documentation in paragraphs (a) and (b) is not available.

I must hasten to add that before a magistrate issues a permit I referred to above, he or she must be provided with:

  • a birth certificate or certified copy of a birth certificate of the child or children to prove a legitimate relationship between the co- holders of parental responsibilities and rights: and
  • written reasons why the movement of the child is necessary.

We specifically made these amendments to allow any child who was not at the residence of their primary caregiver prior the announcement of the lockdown to return to the primary care giver.

However, I must point out that this will be done on a once-off basis. We appeal to all parents/caregivers who share joint custody to be reasonable, to act in good faith and to prioritize the health and safety of their children when making decisions about whether children should be moved in the first place. We have a zero tolerance for any parent or caregiver who recklessly exposes a child to any COVID-19 risk.

Amendment of directions on social development facilities and services;

Ensuring that vulnerable groups remain protected from this pandemic remains our priority. To this end, we have amended a number of regulations relating to substance abuse treatment centres and halfway houses, child and youth care centres, shelters for victims of crime and gender based violence as well as residential facilities for persons with disabilities.

With regards to substance abuse treatment centers and halfway houses, the amended directions make provision for the release of service users from these facilities upon social workers recommendations. The same applies to the release of victims of gender based violence and that of Children in child and youth care facilities. The amendments also makes provision for the prioriritsation of all matters relating to children in conflict with the law.

With regards to Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres, the sector remains closed in the alert level 4 risk adjusted approach. We will continue to monitor the implementation of the alert level 4 risk adjusted approach to review this decision in consultation with relevant structures to ensure that whenever a decision is made for this sector to open, it is Covid19 ready in order to protect the children and the staff working at these facilities.

However, I have included in the directions to allow provinces to continue paying subsidies in order to fulfil their administrative responsibilities and payment of stipends.

Older person’s facilities remain closed during the alert level 4 due to their vulnerability to Covid19, however we encourage all facilities to ensure the implementation of Covid19 protocols and work with district health teams for continuous screening and testing. With regards to Inter-country adoptions, these services are suspended during the state of national disaster.

With regards to the recruitment of social work professionals;

As COVID-19 continues to impact on individuals and families across South Africa, social service professionals are on the frontline of our national pandemic response.

In this regard, we are recruiting an additional 1 809 social workers to reinforce the current workforce and to provide a range of social work services, including timely psychosocial interventions to support for affected individuals and families.

The allocation of the additional social workers per province is as follows:

Eastern Cape:              171

Free State:                   92

Gauteng:                      676

KwaZulu-Natal:            266

Limpopo:                      116

Mpumalanga:               128

Northern Cape:            33

North West:                  81

Western Cape:             246

The social workers will be employed for a period of three months. Priority will be given to social work graduates who have registered on the department’s database of unemployed qualified social work graduates that we developed in 2019. A further 1210 unemployed Social Work graduates will be given a 1 year internship opportunity in a joint venture between HW-SETA, the South African Council for Social Service Practitioners (SACSSP), the DSD and Wits Health Consortium. The SACSSP will ensure that all graduates signed up for the two projects are verified and licensed to practice. They will all be exposed to training before their placement.

The provision of psychosocial support services are an integral part of disaster response as it helps individuals and communities to rebuild their lives.

With regards to the National Development Agency:

The National Development Agency has recruited and placed 580 volunteers with CSOs in all 52 districts to support the distribution of food to vulnerable families. An additional 620 volunteers will be added to increase the number of volunteers by the NDA to bring the total to 1 200 volunteers. These volunteers assist the DSD portfolio, in addition to food distribution, on educating families on COVID-19 preventions, verification of applicants for the special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant to fast track the process of payment of this grant. To date these volunteers have distributed over 100 000 local language brochures on health education.

With regards to the food and nutrition programme:

The Department has been providing food and nutrition services to combat the growing challenge of malnutrition and hunger amongst poor and vulnerable communities. The department developed a system of food distribution that has been working since 2013/14 to provide food. This intervention is informed by section 27 1 (b-c) of the Constitution, which states that “Everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and water”.

We have noted the challenges with long queues for food which is distribute by NGO’s. These challenges were experienced when Private Sector and NPO’s in the main distribute food parcels in an uncoordinated manner wherein the Local Municipality, Provinces and law enforcement agencies are sometimes not informed and not part of these distributions. (A case in point is in Olivenhoutbosch in Centurion).

This uncoordinated food distribution creates duplication, partisan and corruption challenges, whilst proper coordination structures and mechanisms at national and in provinces exists we acknowledge it is not enough. I would also like to request all those who have received the food parcels to please be considerate and not take more than your share. Please understand that our resources are limited, so when you take two instead of one food parcel, you are taking away from another vulnerable family.  To all those NPO’s who are fighting shoulder to shoulder with us to ensure that our people are able to access food, I wish to express my sincere appreciation.

We are going to develop directives that addresses this challenge. These directives will encourage NPO’s to coordinate with Municipalities, Provinces and Law enforcement agencies to ensure that they distribute food in a better coordinated manner.

In addition, as of 30 April, SASSA has received over 80 thousand applications for Social Relief of Distress (SRD). Of this number, 57 763 applications were eligible. To date, over 34 thousand food parcels were distributed and the balance will be distributed before the end of this month.

With the pandemic taking its toll on South Africa and pushing many vulnerable families into destitution, the R407 Million Rand budgeted for the SRD programme in the current financial year might not be adequate to reach all those in need in these trying times.

Akekho umuntu okufanele alambe.

Tlala ha ya loka.

Let me take this opportunity to thank each one of us for behaving in ways that keep us ahead of this fight. There is nothing more important today than being alive.

We are grateful to our private sector and civil society partners. One example among these is GovChat.

I appeal to all of us to go back to the basics of self-sustainability.

SPECIAL COVID19 SOCIAL RELIEF OF DISTRESS GRANT;

In line with level 4 regulations and in preparation for the roll out of the special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant and with the provision of social services – we have gazetted new directives that will allow 30% of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) workforce to return to work on a rotational basis to continue to render social services to our people.

Limited services will be provided from SASSA local offices, which will progressively open as from today 11 May 2020. In order to protect the most vulnerable members of society, Mondays and Tuesdays will be used to receive applications from older persons. Priority will be given to those citizens who turned 60 just prior to or during the lockdown period, who were unable to complete their applications before services were stopped.

Wednesdays and Thursdays will be new applications for child support and foster child grants. Again priority will be given to care givers with new babies, instances where the care giver has to change or where circumstances have resulted in care givers having no income to support their children.

I wish to appeal to care givers not to bring their children with when they go to the SASSA offices to minimize the risk of infection these young people may face.

With regards to the Implementation of COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant – it will be recalled that in my last media briefing I outlined the criteria and payment methods we would use to roll out the Special COVID19 Social Relief of Distress Grant as announced by President Ramaphosa.  We have gone back to relook at our systems and have strengthened the modus operandi thereof.

As part of the preparations for the full-scale implementation of this grant, we have successfully pilot tested a new contactless application system that will go live immediately after this briefing.

We have set up a dedicated WhatsApp line, after having tested the concept through the Department of Health’s WHATSAPP platform.  Those who have applied through this platform during the testing phase will be processed in line with the set criteria and successful applicants will be notified during the course of this week in order to request additional information for payments.

Let me hasten to add that as we implement this special grant, we will remain vigilant and not tolerate any form of fraud and corruption we have thus built in strong cyber security and strong monitoring mechanisms in this regard. All instances of suspected fraud or corruption will be investigated thoroughly with appropriate action taken where such conduct is found.

Allow me to outline the criteria again;

The amount to be paid to qualifying applications will be R350 per month from May – October 2020. The Special COVID19 Social Relief of Distress Grant will be implemented in terms of the existing avenue provided for by the SRD channel, which is administered in accordance with the provisions as set in the Social Assistance Act, 2004.

The qualifying criteria for the special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress of R350 per month for distressed individuals is as follows:

The grant will be available to South African Citizen, Permanent Resident or Refugee registered on the Home Affairs system; who are resident within the borders of the Republic of South Africa;

Applicants must be:

  • above the age of 18;
  • Unemployed;
  • Not receiving any income;
  • Not receiving any social grant;
  • Not receiving any unemployment insurance benefit and does not qualify to receive unemployment insurance benefits;
  • Not receiving a stipend from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme; and
  • Not resident in a government funded or subsidized institution.

Prospective Applicants will need to provide the following compulsory information for processing of their applications:

  • Identity Number/Department of Home permit;
  • Name and Surname as captured in the ID (and initials);
  • Gender and Disability;
  • Banking details – Bank Name and Account Number;
  • Contact details – Cell phone number;
  • Proof of Residential Address;

The manner in which qualifying citizens can apply for this grant will be as follows:

  • The new WHATSAPP line will be 082 0468 553
  • The USSD or SMS Line will be *134*7737#
  • The email address will be srd@sassa.gov.za

We are mindful that we may have some challenges as we roll out this grant and we appeal to members of the public to exercise patience as we embark upon this journey.

I thank you.

From the desk of the President (11th May 2020)

Dear Fellow South African,

Since the beginning of May, when we began the gradual easing of the nation-wide coronavirus lockdown, many people have started returning to work.

As part of the phased recovery of the economy, companies in certain specified industries have been able to resume part or all of their operations.

The national coronavirus alert level is now at 4, which means that extreme precautions remain in place to limit community transmission. Our goal is to steadily reduce the alert level by keeping the rate of infection down and getting our health system ready for the inevitable increase in cases.

As the lockdown is gradually eased, life will slowly return. But it will not be life as we knew it before.

While there is still much about the pandemic that is unknown, experts now agree that the virus will remain a threat to global public health for some time.

We must therefore be prepared to continue to live with the coronavirus among us for a year or even more.

We must be prepared for a new reality in which the fight against COVID-19 becomes part of our daily existence.

Our success in overcoming the coronavirus will ultimately be determined by the changes we make in our behaviour.

Even after lockdown – especially after lockdown – we will still need to observe social distancing, wear face masks, wash hands regularly, and avoid contact with other people. We will need to re-organise workplaces, schools, universities, colleges and other public places to limit transmission.

We will need to adapt to new ways of worshipping, socialising, exercising and meeting that minimise opportunities for the virus to spread.

This is a reality that countries across the world are having to confront. Even those countries that have started easing their lockdown restrictions are doing so tentatively and with extreme caution.

Like we have done, many countries are implementing extensive stimulus packages to strengthen their respective health care sectors, support ailing industries and workers and provide relief to vulnerable households.

Like us, they have had to heed calls for economic activity to resume. Like our citizens, their populations are restive and frustrated with the curtailment of personal freedoms.

At the same time, health experts around the globe are warning of a ‘second wave’ of infections as public life resumes. A number of countries including Germany, Iran and China have seen a rise in new infections since they relaxed certain restrictions.

We will be no different. We can and must expect infections to rise as more people return to work. We must accept the reality, prepare for it and adapt to it.

The next phase of our national response is as much about continuity as it is about change or innovation. We will step up our intensive screening, testing and case management programme. We will introduce new measures to make contact tracing more effective. We will need to implement mass sanitisation of workplaces, public transport and other spaces.

Since the nationwide lockdown began, most South Africans have observed the regulations that are in place for their own health and safety. They have made an informed decision to do so, understanding it is necessary for their own lives and for the lives of those around them.

As the restrictions on economic activity and daily life are eased, it is vital that all South Africans maintain that firm sense of personal responsibility. In all that we do, in every sphere of life, we must take care of our own health and the health of others.

Whether as individuals, employers, employees, government, civil society, trade unions or businesses, we will all continue to have a role to play in fighting the pandemic.

In the same way that we had to change our behaviour to prevent the spread of HIV, now we need to change our behaviour to stop the coronavirus.

Imposing a nation-wide lockdown gave our country a strategic advantage. It bought us valuable time to prepare our health system and put in place containment measures. This has slowed transmission and saved lives.

The transition to the next phase of the coronavirus response, that of recovery, will be more difficult than the present one. The risk of infection outbreaks will increase. The demands on our clinics and hospitals and medical personnel will grow.

That is why easing the lockdown restrictions must not result in careless behaviour by individuals or reckless practices by businesses keen to resume activity at the cost of human health.

The coronavirus crisis will pass. But for as long as it remains a threat to the lives of our people, we must remain vigilant, diligent and responsible.

Now, more than ever, it is upon the conduct of each that depends the fate of all.

With best wishes,

Dear Fellow South African,

The entire world is in the unrelenting grip of the coronavirus pandemic, whose spread has been rapid. A vaccine has yet to be found. Across the world, over 3.4 million people are known to be infected and more than 240,000 have died. These are indeed desperate times.

When the national state of disaster was declared six weeks ago, South Africa only had 61 confirmed coronavirus infections. Despite the relatively low number, expert opinion and international experience indicated that infections would rise exponentially. I said that urgent and drastic measures would need to be taken.

Those measures – which included a nation-wide lockdown and the closure of our borders – have proved to be effective in delaying the spread of the disease.

This has been possible because most South Africans have adhered to the lockdown provisions, practising social distancing and wearing face masks. I applaud you for this and for all the other sacrifices you have made.

At this stage in the progress of the pandemic, other countries had far more infections than we do. As of now – which is 46 days since we recorded our 100th coronavirus case – we have 6,783 confirmed cases. Italy, which has a similar size population to ours, had more than 140,000 cases and the United States had around 700,000 confirmed cases at the 46-day mark.

But this does not mean that the danger has passed. We have not nearly reached the peak of infections in South Africa. All the scientific models show that the infection rate will continue to rise at a much faster rate in the next few months.

However, the speed with which the virus spreads and the number of people who are ultimately infected will be determined by what we do now. That is why the easing of the lockdown needs to be gradual and cautious. It is for this reason that many regulations need to remain in place and why it is absolutely essential that people observe them. I know how difficult this is and I understand the concern that many of our compatriots have about how these regulations are interfering and limiting their rights. But all this is necessary. Our overriding objective is the preservation of life.

Social distancing and proper hygiene are still our best and only defences in this struggle. This is what informs the regulations we have put in place for level 4 of our response. Our considerations are based on empirical evidence, scientific and economic data and international best practice.

In the 1995 judgment of the Constitutional Court that outlawed capital punishment, Justice Arthur Chaskalson wrote: “The rights to life and dignity are the most important of all human rights and the source of all other personal rights. By committing ourselves to a society founded on the recognition of human rights we are required to value these two rights above all others.”

The regulations we have put in place are founded on that commitment to life and dignity, and which justify – in these extreme circumstances – temporary restrictions on other rights, like freedom of movement and association.

In doing this, South Africa is not unlike many other countries.

An estimated one-fifth of the world’s population is under quarantine or nationwide lockdown, with this number growing rapidly in response to rising infections. This includes countries with substantially larger populations than ours, like India with its 1.5 billion people.

Dozens of countries have imposed curfews such as the one that is now in place here. Limitations on movement are in place in a number of countries. In the UK and the French capital, Paris, public exercise is limited to certain hours and within a certain distance of one’s home.

Containment and prevention measures similar to ours are in place in a number of countries. For example, alcohol sales during lockdown have been either restricted or banned in a number of territories and by local governments, including parts of Mexico, Hong Kong and Greenland, which last month imposed a ban on alcohol sales during lockdown to limit infection but also ‘to curb violence against women and children.’

There has been much public comment on government’s decision to extend the prohibition on the sale of tobacco products into level 4. A decision like this is bound to be controversial, but it is wrong to suggest that there are Ministers or a President doing and saying whatever they want on this matter.

On 23 April, I announced that cigarette sales would be permitted during level 4. This was based on the view of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), and which was contained in the draft framework that was published for consulation.

After careful consideration and discussion, the NCCC reconsidered its position on tobacco. As a result, the regulations ratified by Cabinet and announced by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on 29 April extended the prohibition.

This was a collective decision and the public statements by both myself and the Minister were done on behalf of, and mandated by, the collective I lead.

Every regulation we have put in place has been carefully considered. Along the way there has been consultation with medical experts, various constituencies and different industries. We have been guided by international bodies and the experience of other countries.

The reality is that we are sailing in uncharted waters. There is still a great deal about the epidemiology of the virus that is unknown. It is better to err on the side of caution than to pay the devastating price of a lapse in judgment in future.

While there are differing views on some of the decisions we have taken – and in some instances these have polarised opinion – government is making every effort to act in a way that advances the rights to life and dignity of all our people.

Listening to our people and their concerns during this period has been one of the distinguishing features of how we as government have managed this pandemic. We continue to listen to the concerns of our people and are prepared to make adjustments that balance people’s concerns about the challenges they face with the need to save lives.

At this difficult time, our collective energies must be focused on ensuring that health and life is preserved, that the delivery of food, water, health care, social security and social support is not disrupted.

Under these extraordinary circumstances, as government, as individuals and as society we will at times make mistakes. When these occur, we will correct them. But we must carry on, losing neither our nerve nor our resolve.

The situation in which we find ourselves demands courage and patience. It requires goodwill and trust between you, the citizen, and your government, and between each other.

Over the past five weeks, most South Africans have adhered to the lockdown regulations and, as a result, we have slowed the spread of the virus.

It is my plea that we continue in this way and that we remain united in confronting this grave threat to the life and dignity of our people.

With best wishes,


Communications and Digital Technology on Risk-Adjusted Strategy directions for film and television production houses

As Acting Minister of Communications & Digital Technologies, I have signed and gazetted directions on the Risk-Adjusted Strategy for the ICT sector. The gazetted directions allow, among other, electronic communication services and network services, advertising agencies, film and television production companies to resume operations.

Last month President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the COVID-19 Risk Adjusted Strategy that provides a framework for a responsive guide to the social, educational and economic activities which can be undertaken during the state of national disaster.

These Directions apply in addition to the existing restrictions and rules that are in place across all sectors and alert levels including COVID-19 health protocols and sanitation requirements.

The following sectors and sub-sectors are permitted to be operational under Alert Level 4:

  1. Electronic communications services and network services (telecommunications services and infrastructure).
  2. Manufacturing of telecommunications infrastructure including electronic communications facilities and end-user and subscriber equipment.
  3. Construction and related services such as telecommunications infrastructure, electronic communications facilities including the resumption of construction and fitting out of data centres currently being built.
  4. Wholesale and retail, including stores, spaza shops, e-Commerce and informal traders for the production and sale of airtime and data, online and physical retail sale, delivery, collection and replacement of ICT equipment, network equipment, end-user and subscriber equipment and ancillary equipment to support level 4 services as well as to facilitate work-from-home arrangements. Access to broadcasting including set-top-boxes, computers, mobile telephones and other home office equipment, including installation, maintenance and repair.
  5. Information and Communications Technology services for all private and business customers.
  6. Broadcasting services, online services, productions for local broadcast and live streaming, advertising agencies, film and television productions using local cast and crew are permitted to operate under alert level 4.
  7. Postal and courier services related to the transportation of medical products, ICT equipment and other end-user and subscriber equipment and to support other level services are also permitted under alert level 4.
  8. Financial services such as the provision of banking services by the South African Post Bank and payment of social grants by the South African Postbank, through the South African Post Office branches and other methods shall continue to be operational.

The gazette of these directions follows consultation with the sector and their plans on how they will mitigate the prevention of the spread of the COVID-19. The directions further include a monitoring and compliance approach that will be followed by sector regulators, industry representative bodies and through the department’s COVID-19 Project Management Office. The Directions came into effect on 02 May 2020.

I wish to thank the communications and digital technologies sector for their participation to date, and for the mitigation measures suggested, which will contribute to addressing and curbing the spread of COVID-19.

The full gazette is available on the department’s website.https://www.dtps.gov.za/.

Media Enquiries:

Nonceba Mhlauli – 0726233462 / nonceba@dpme.gov.za Spokesperson to Minister Jackson Mthembu – Acting Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies

Or

Mish Molakeng: 082 469 3997 / mmolakeng@dtps.gov.za  (Ministry of Communications and Technologies)

More on:

REQUEST FOR COMMENTS: SCHEDULE OF SERVICES TO BE PHASED IN AS PER THE COVID-19 RISK ADJUSTED STRATEGY

Government has today put in the public domain a draft framework for the Risk Adjusted Strategy to bring different sectors of the economy under Level Four of the Lockdown back to work as announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

In undertaking the Risk Adjusted Strategy, the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) and the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 intends to sequence and phased in key sectors and priority areas with a view to deepening the fight against COVID-19 whilst simultaneously rebuilding our economy.

In this regard, sectors and business organisations / trade unions and members of the public are invited to submit comments on the schedule of services to be phased in as per the Covid-19 Risk Adjusted Strategy to be implemented with effect from 01 May 2020.

The draft framework can be accessed on: https://sacoronavirus.co.za/covid-19-risk-adjusted-strategy/ and
https://www.gcis.gov.za/sites/default/files/docs/goodsservices-movement-1.pdf.

Note that the classification of sectors in the draft framework follows the Standard Industrial Classifications (SIC) as published by Statistics South Africa. Where an entire division is permitted, it should be assumed that all subgroupings are permitted as well.

Where only certain subgroupings are specifically permitted within a division, it should be assumed that other subgroupings are not.In the document, when moving between levels, the green text means additions or changes from the prior level. For example, Level 4 now adds forestry and related services to Agriculture.

Feedback and/or comments should be submitted in writing preferably for Level Four and following the attached guidelines. South Africa will be moving to level 4 economic activity as of 1 May 2020 hence comments particularly on the proposals as contained in Level 4 is encouraged.

Completed submissions must be returned via email to lockdowncomments@cogta.gov.za by 12h00, on Monday, 27 April 2020.

Issued by Government Communications (GCIS)
25 April 2020

REMARKS BY MINISTER OF FINANCE, MR, TITO MBOWENI, DURING THE MEDIA BRIEFING TO OUTLINE R500BN ECONOMIC SUPPORT PACKAGE

24 APRIL 2020

Introduction

We are, as a nation, facing extraordinary times and enormous economic challenges.

We have, however, got the human and other resources, and the resilience as a nation to overcome this challenge.

Led by the President, and together with my cluster colleagues, we have developed a set of fiscal and monetary policy interventions. These interventions draw together the skills and expertise of people in private and public sector.

At this time of great need, our macroeconomic response must not only be about the high-level fiscal and monetary variables. Those are very important. Our intervention must also be about our people, particularly the poor, the infirm and the vulnerable. It must also be about the businesses – large and small – that drive our economy, and create work for our people. It must be about our banking and financial system, to make sure money continues to flow through the veins of the economy.

A co-ordinated fiscal and monetary policy response

Our focus has on how to use the levers of macroeconomic policy, i.e. fiscal and monetary policy, in a way that delivers an immediate, targeted and clear response.

Wisely used together, these key levers can deliver a countercyclical boost directly into the heart of the economy. But, if these two levers work against each other, or if the levers are used incorrectly, then we can be left substantially worse off. We must be careful not to choose a path that seems easy, or too good to be true. The easy path more often than not to a bad destination; and if something seems to be too good to be true, it probably usually is.

Over the last week, the teams from the National Treasury and South African Reserve Bank have worked together on a set of macroeconomic responses to the crisis. Governor 10 and I have convened two bilaterals – one on Saturday between ourselves, and one on Sunday involving our two full teams.

Our key discussion point was to appropriately calibrate the fiscal and monetary policy interventions, and provide appropriate advice.

We must always balance short-term fiscal and monetary policy interventions with long-run sustainability. Working under the leadership of our President, we calibrated a fiscal package of approximately R500 billion. Governor 10 (Lesetja Kganyago) has already unveiled a monetary and policy package. This will bring additional life into the whole financial system, and will utilise the combined balance sheet of the country in a careful but appropriate way.

This takes our total economy wide measures over R800 billion. Let me say that again – our combined fiscal and monetary policy package is over R800 billion. This is a major fiscal and monetary policy response

The components of the fiscal and monetary response

The main components of the fiscal response can be thought of in five components, which are:

Firstly, an extraordinary health budget (R20 billion) to respond to coronavirus,

Secondly, the relief of hunger and social distress,

Thirdly, support for companies and workers,

Fourthly, the phased re-opening of the economy which the President spoke about last night, and

Finally, the supportive monetary and financial market measures.

The President has spoken in detail about these components.

Let me give a short summary:

Under the first part of the package, we are setting aside an amount of R20 billion to be directed to addressing our efforts in dealing with the pandemic.

Under the second part of the package, the government will substantially increase our social security net.

We are directing R50 billion towards relieving the plight of those who are most desperately affected by the coronavirus. Child support grant beneficiaries (children) will receive an extra R300 in May.

From June we will change the way the system works a little. From June to October caregivers (typically mothers) will get an additional R500 each month. All other grants will be topped by R250 per month for the next six months. We will use our existing system to disburse these grants.

In addition, a special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant of R350 a month for the next 6 months will be paid to individuals who are currently unemployed and do not receive any other form of social grant or UIF payment.

Our teams are working closely with the Department of Social Development SASSA and teams from the Payments Association of South Africa, the Banking Association, and others to identify easier payment systems to be used in this regard. We aim to use existing cash transfer systems including mobile cellphone technology. The Department of Social Development and SASSA will outline the details on how this will be implemented including a smooth application process making it easier for eligible recipients to sign up and get the money quickly.

On the third part of the package, we have rolled out an extensive set of tax relief and support for workers. My other colleagues in particular Thula Nxesi will speak to the detail on the support for workers.

On the tax side, our proposals include:

  1. An increase in the expanded employment tax incentive amount from R500 to R750 per employee.
  2. A skills development levy holiday of 4 months from 1 May 2020.
  3. Fast-tracking VAT refunds.
  4. Deferring the payment of excise duty on alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.
  5. A three-month deferral for filing and first payment of carbon tax liabilities to 31 October 2020.
  6. A postponement of some of the corporate tax proposals in this year’s Budget on interest expenses and assessed losses.
  7. An increase in the deferment of employee’s tax
  8. An increase in the turnover threshold for automatic deferrals.
  9. We have been particularly pleased to see how quickly the nation has pulled together. A Solidarity Fund has been set up and has shown us a new way of how we can bring together our society to confront the challenge. Alreadythe Solidarity Fund has spent R1 billion on personal protective equipment. Up to a third of such donations will be tax deductible. We will also increase the limits for payroll giving to the Solidarity Fund – including in determining the monthly withholding of employees’ tax.
  10. Finally, we have expanded access to living annuity funds by allowing individual to adjust the proportion they receive as annuity income, instead of waiting up to one year until their next contract anniversary date.

The combined effect of these revenue and expenditure measures have naturally changed the fiscal framework. That said, for the next few weeks, many of these measures can still be accommodated within the current framework. I will shortly be tabling a revised budget bill to Parliament to deal with all these measures.

We are in this together. South Africa is resilient, and we have the ability to get through tough times together.

Further support for firms will come from a R200 billion loan guarantee scheme, which the President also announced. The key features of the Covid-19 loan guarantee scheme are provided in detail on our website.

Fourthly, the phased re-opening of the economy

As the President said last night, on the 23 April 2020, most of government’s efforts are focused on finding mechanisms to ensure firms can return to work safely. Conditional on bsuinesses installing a screening and testing system and providing a safe working environment, we can open up the economy. There is no need for us to elaborate on the measures, which were detailed by our President.

As businesses open we will focus on screening and testing. Clear communication strategies are required and it is critical to ensure that people feel protected and safe.  Targeted lockdowns will need to be re-imposed where risks begin to emerge. It will be critical to facilitate trade, to generate export earnings as well as to provide some support for businesses that can operate. The fiscal and economic impact of banning certain goods needs to be taken into account.

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.

We have an excellent health response to this crisis, led by Minisiter Mkhize. Our economic package will help cushion the blow on the economy.

But we must be aware that even with the best programmes in the world, growth will not recover immediately. In order to manage the health risks of this extremely contagious disease, international experience suggests that a phased approach to the normalization of economic activity is required. Since very little is known about how co-morbidity factors affect infection and mortality rates, and with existing health problems, cramped living conditions and poverty within the population, caution is warranted.

But the longer that growth remains weak, the greater the risk that there will be permanent destruction of economic capacity. This in turn has serious implications for the income streams of households and firms.

Global weakness further compounds these growth effects, alongside the impact of a weaker currency and higher borrowing costs.

Concerns about the sustainability of South Africa’s fiscal choices has seen the cost of borrowing in our country increase faster than other emerging economies. The fiscal weakness was present going into the crisis – in particular, rising debt to GDP levels and the rapid growth in interest costs as a share of total spending, squeezing out spending on other priorities. Unsustainable state-owned enterprises are putting enormous pressure on the budget. The quicker we find solutions to this the better for everyone.

While we are keenly aware of the need for a short-run enormous intervention, we cannot take our eye off the ball, i.e. the long-run. We must ensure that our choices do not mortgage our future.

Thus in the month ahead, our response will be in three phases:

  • Phase 1 is the phase we are currently in, which aims to PRESERVE our economy. It is designed to be a set of immediate, targeted and temporary responses.
  • Phase 2 is a plan for RECOVERY from the immediate effects of the crisis. We will outline This in due course.
  • Phase 3 is a PIVOT to position the economy for structurally higher growth. This virus will be beaten. But we must make sure that when we beat it, we do not compromise our long-run sustainability.

In particular, as we come out of the coronavirus crisis, we must work quickly to implement our structural reforms to get the economy moving. Virus or no virus, the economy has been growing too slowly for too long.

Concluding remarks

In conclusion, I would like to thank my colleagues and the many South Africans for the way in which in which we are working together in this crisis.

In the spirit of Thuma Mina, many have put up their hands, and put their shoulders to the wheel for our country. There have been colloquia, research papers, opinion pieces, and so forth. We have truly experienced the intellectual capacity of our nation, and we have been presented with near endless set of ideas. We have also drawn from the community of nations. We are members of many international bodies. They have shared their experiences and ideas with us, and we have shared ours with them. They have ensured that we have a truly global response.

As we aim to propel our economy forward after the crisis, we must all remember that together we can do more.

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA ON FURTHER ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL MEASURES IN RESPONSE THE COVID-19 EPIDEMIC

21 APRIL 2020

My Fellow South Africans,

It is 25 days since South Africa began a nation-wide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
It has demanded of you great fortitude and endurance.
It has caused you much suffering and required much sacrifice.

Once again, I salute you and I thank you.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted your lives and damaged our economy.
Its severity will continue to take a heavy toll in the weeks and months to come.
The pandemic has resulted in the sudden loss of income for businesses and individuals alike, deepening poverty and increasing hunger.
The urgent and dramatic measures we have taken to delay the spread of the virus have been absolutely necessary.
They have given us the space to better respond to the inevitable rise in infections and to thereby save tens of thousands of lives.


While the nation-wide lockdown is having a devastating effect on our economy, it is nothing compared to the catastrophic human, social and economic cost if the coronavirus could spread among our people unchecked.


Medical scientists and our doctors inform us that we are still in the early stages of this pandemic.
Without proven therapeutic medicines or a vaccine, we can expect this to continue as a problem for the foreseeable future.


Our foremost priority now is to intensify the health interventions needed to contain and delay the spread of the disease and to save lives.


To date, the coronavirus has taken the lives of at least 58 people in our country.

This is a loss that we all mourn, for we know the pain and the anguish of their loved ones.

From the more than 126,000 tests conducted, 3,465 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been identified.
More than 2 million people have been screened in communities across the country and, of these, over 15,000 have been referred for testing.


Alongside this unprecedented public health effort are the measures we are taking to protect livelihoods, to stave off hunger and destitution and to set our economy on a path of recovery.
This evening, I wish to address you on our economic and social response to this global health emergency. The pandemic requires an economic response that is equal to the scale of the disruption it is causing.


Our economic response can be divided into three phases.

The first phase began in mid-March when we declared the coronavirus pandemic as a national disaster.
This included a broad range of measures to mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic on businesses, on communities and on individuals.
The measures included tax relief, the release of disaster relief funds, emergency procurement, wage support through the UIF and funding to small businesses.

We are now embarking on the second phase of our economic response to stabilise the economy, address the extreme decline in supply and demand and protect jobs.
As part of this phase, we are announcing this evening a massive social relief and economic support package of R500 billion, which amounts to around 10% of GDP.

The third phase is the economic strategy we will implement to drive the recovery of our economy as the country emerges from this pandemic.


Central to the economic recovery strategy will be the measures we will embark upon to stimulate demand and supply through interventions such as a substantial infrastructure build programme, the speedy implementation of economic reforms, the transformation of our economy and embarking on all other steps that will ignite inclusive economic growth.


We will outline this in coming days.


Over the past few days, we have been in consultations with various stakeholders.
We have met with business, labour and the community constituency in NEDLAC.
We have met with Premiers, MECs and Metro Mayors and with the members of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council.


Following these meetings, Cabinet considered various proposals and finalised the social relief and economic support package that stands at the centre of the second phase of our economic response.


This involves:

Firstly, an extraordinary health budget to respond to coronavirus,
Secondly, the relief of hunger and social distress,
Thirdly, support for companies and workers,
Fourthly, the phased re-opening of the economy.


The impact of the coronavirus requires an extraordinary coronavirus budget – of around R500 billion – to direct resources towards fighting the pandemic.

This will include the reprioritisation of around R130 billion within the current budget. The rest of the funds will be raised from both local sources, such as the Unemployment Insurance Fund, and from global partners and international finance institutions. To date, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, BRICS New Development Bank and the African Development Bank have been approached and are working with the National Treasury on various funding transactions.


Some of these institutions have created financing packages that are aimed at assisting countries that are having to address the coronavirus crisis like us. This funding will be used, in the first instance, to fund the health response to coronavirus. An amount of R20 billion will be directed to addressing our efforts to address the pandemic.

If we are to successfully manage the anticipated surge in cases and ensure that everyone who needs treatment receives it, we must provide for additional expenditure on personal protective  equipment for health workers, community screening, an increase in testing capacity, additional beds in field hospitals, ventilators, medicine and staffing.


The nation-wide lockdown has had a negative impact on the revenue of municipalities at a time when the demands on them are increasing. Additional funding of R20 billion will therefore be made available to municipalities for the provision of emergency water supply, increased sanitisation of public transport and facilities, and providing food and shelter for the homeless.


Details will be announced in the adjustment budget tabled by the Minister of Finance. Another significant area that requires massive additional expenditure is the relief of hunger and social  distress in our communities across the country.


While we have put in place measures to protect the wages of workers in the formal economy and have extended support to small, medium and micro-sized businesses, millions of South Africans in the informal economy and those without employment are struggling to survive. Poverty and food insecurity have deepened dramatically in the course of just a few weeks. To reach the most vulnerable families in the country, we have decided on a temporary 6-month Coronavirus grant.


We will direct R50 billion towards relieving the plight of those who are most desperately affected by the coronavirus.

This means that child support grant beneficiaries will receive an extra R300 in May and from June to October they will receive an additional R500 each month.
All other grant beneficiaries will receive an extra R250 per month for the next six months.
In addition, a special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant of R350 a month for the next 6 months will be paid to individuals who are currently unemployed and do not receive any other form of social grant or UIF payment.

The Department of Social Development will issue the requirements needed to access and apply for this funding.


We have recognised that the food distribution capacity of government is not adequate to meet the huge need that has arisen since the start of the epidemic.
The South African Social Security Agency – SASSA – will within days implement a technology-based solution to roll out food assistance at scale through vouchers and cash transfers to ensure that help reaches those who need it faster and more efficiently.


In addition, to fill the immediate need, the Department of Social Development has partnered with the Solidarity Fund, NGOs and community-based organisations to distribute 250,000 food parcels across the country over the next two weeks.


We are deeply disturbed by reports of unscrupulous people abusing the distribution of food and other assistance for corrupt ends. We will not hesitate to ensure that those involved in such activities face the full might of the law.


While there are several interventions that already exist within government to deal with the extremely high unemployment such as the Expanded Public Works Programme and the community works programme, these are not enough.

The coronavirus crisis will lead to many people losing their jobs. An additional R100 billion will be set aside for protection of jobs and to create jobs. Since the declaration of a state of national disaster over a month ago, government has put in place a range of measures to support workers’ wages and assist companies in distress.


By the end of today, the UIF’s special COVID-19 benefit has paid out R1.6-billion, assisting over 37,000 companies and 600,00 workers.
R40 billion has been set aside for income support payments for workers whose employers are not able to pay their wages.


We continue to provide assistance – in the form of loans, grants and debt restructuring – to SMMEs, spaza shop owners and other informal businesses.
The value of this assistance to date is over R100 million.
An additional amount of R2 billion will be made available to assist SMEs and spaza shop owners and other small businesses.

The IDC facility to support companies to procure or manufacture personal protective equipment has been utilised in the past few weeks, with finance of R162 million approved to date.
Other forms of support have been extended to artists, athletes and technical personnel, as well as to waste pickers and public works participants in the environment sector.

While these measures are providing obvious relief to many companies and workers, it is clear that there is a far greater need across the entire economy. We will therefore be introducing a R200 billion loan guarantee scheme in partnership with the major banks, the National Treasury and the South African Reserve Bank.

This will assist enterprises with operational costs, such as salaries, rent and the payment of suppliers.


In the initial phase, companies with a turnover of less than R300 million a year will be eligible. It is expected that the scheme will support over 700,000 firms and more than 3 million employees through this difficult period. A number of the banks are ready to roll out the product before the end of the month.


Government is also working on additional support measures for vulnerable and affected sectors like the taxi industry.


In addition to existing tax relief measures, we will also be introducing a 4-month holiday for companies’ skills development levy contributions, fast-tracking VAT refunds and a 3-month delay for filing and first payment of carbon tax.


To assist a greater number of businesses, the previous turnover threshold for tax deferrals is being increased to R100 million a year, and the proportion of PAYE payment that can be deferred will be increased to 35 percent.

Businesses with a turnover of more than R100 million a year can apply directly to SARS on a case-by-case basis for deferrals of their tax payments. No penalties for late payments will be applicable if they can show they have been materially negatively impacted in this period.


Taxpayers who donate to the Solidarity Fund will be able to claim up to an additional 10 percent as a deduction from their taxable income.

In total these tax measures should provide at least R70 billion in cash flow relief or direct payments to businesses and individuals.


The Minister of Finance will provide further details on the above and other tax-related announcements.


In the implementation of all these measures, we are determined to ensure that women, youth and persons with disability received particular attention and support.
The South African Reserve Bank has also made an important contribution to support the real economy.

In line with its Constitutional mandate, it has cut the repo rate by 200 basis point, in effect unlocking at least R80 billion in the real economy, and taking other steps to provide additional liquidity to the financial system.

Several commercial banks and insurance companies have also assisted the economic relief effort by, among other things, delaying or reducing instalment payments, providing debt relief, and waiving bank fees for grant beneficiaries.

The fourth area on which Cabinet has resolved is the phased re-opening of the economy. We will follow a risk-adjusted approach to the return of economic activity, balancing the continued need to limit the spread of the coronavirus with the need to get people back to work.


As I have said previously, if we end the lockdown too soon or too abruptly, we risk a massive and uncontrollable resurgence of the disease. We will therefore follow a phased approach, guided by the best available scientific evidence, to gradually lift the restrictions on economic activity.


As we do so, we remain firm in our resolve to contain the transmission of the virus. We will therefore need to act with agility and flexibility in the weeks and months ahead, and respond to the situation as it develops.


On Thursday, I will address the nation on the measures that will be taken beyond the nationwide lockdown to re-open the economy. This crisis will not last forever, and the day will come when these measures are no longer needed.


Until then, however, we must ensure that all of our people receive adequate support. The scale of this emergency relief programme is historic. It demonstrates that we will not spare any effort, or any expense, in our determination to support our people and protect them from harm.


We will – and we must – do whatever it takes to recover from this human, social and economic crisis.


Our country and the world we live in will never be the same. We are resolved not merely to return our economy to where it was before the coronavirus, but to forge a new economy in a new global reality.

Our economic strategy going forward will require a new social compact among all role players – business, labour, community and government – to restructure the economy and achieve inclusive growth.


Building on the cooperation that is being forged among all social partners during this crisis, we will accelerate the structural reforms required to reduce the cost of doing business, to promote localisation and industrialisation, to overhaul state owned enterprises and to strengthen the informal sector.

We will forge a compact for radical economic transformation that ensures that advances the economic position of women, youth and persons with disabilities, and that makes our cities, towns, villages and rural areas vibrant centres of economic activity.

Our new economy must be founded on fairness, empowerment, justice and equality. It must use every resource, every capability and every innovation we have in the service of the people of this country.

Our new economy must open new horizons and offer new opportunities. Over the past month, South Africans have opened their hearts each other. Even at this moment when such great sacrifice is demanded of us, we look to a better future with optimism.


Even as we find ourselves at a moment of great peril, even as great sacrifices are demanded, even as we dare not allow our vigilance to waver, we look ahead to a better future.


I have faith in the strength and resilience of ordinary South Africans, who have proven time and time again – throughout our history – that they can rise to the challenge.


We shall recover.
We shall overcome.
We shall prosper.

May God bless South Africa and protect her people.

I thank you.

Statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on South Africa’s Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic, Union Building, 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.

Use of Cloth Face Masks by Members of the General Public in South Africa During the COVID-19 Pandemic

There has been much debate globally and locally about whether members of the general public should be advised to wear face-masks during the Covid-19 pandemic. As the epidemic unfolds, support for the wide use of cloth face-masks, including for people who are not ill, is growing. The main benefit of everyone wearing a face-mask is to reduce the amount of Coronavirus (or Influenza virus) being coughed up by those with the infection thereby reducing its spread through droplets.

Since some persons with the Coronavirus may not have symptoms or may not know they are infected, everyone should wear a facemask.

The National Department of Health therefore recommends that everyone in South Africa should wear a cloth face-mask (also known as a non-medical mask) when in public. Commuters travelling in taxis and other forms of public transport, as well as people spending time in spaces where physical distancing is difficult to practice, are particularly encouraged to wear cloth face-masks.

The following should be noted:
Cloth face-masks are recommended as part of respiratory hygiene or etiquette which also includes coughing and sneezing into a bent elbow or a tissue (with proper disposal of the tissue).

The use of cloth face-masks does not reduce the need for other prevention strategies and should never be promoted separately from hand-washing (or sanitising), physical distancing and other components of cough/sneeze hygiene.

The public should not use surgical (medical) or N-95 respirator masks.
Surgical masks and N-95 masks are critical supplies that must be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders. The public is strongly discouraged from using these masks.

Cloth face-masks need to be worn and cleaned properly
The face-mask must cover the nose and mouth completely. Face-masks should not be lowered when speaking, coughing or sneezing.

How the properly use a cloth mask
It is very important that cloth masks are used correctly. Incorrect use might result in users putting themselves at risk of spreading Covid-19.

Guidelines for use are as follows:
1. Only use a mask that has been washed and ironed.
2. Wash your hands before putting the mask on.
3. Place the mask with the correct side facing your face, and ensure that it covers both your nose and mouth properly.
4. Tie the strings behind your head, or if you are using elastic bands, make sure these are tight.
5. Make sure it fits well. Move it around to get the best fit. Never touch the cloth part.
6. Once you have put on the mask, DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE again until you take it of.
7. When you take it off, undo the ties, and carefully fold the mask inside out, hold it by the strings/elastic and place the mask in a container reserved for washing the cloth mask.
8. Wash your hands thoroughly and dry before doing anything else.
9. Wash cloth masks with warm soapy water and iron when dry.
10. You must have at least two cloth masks per person so you will be able to wash one and have a clean one ready for use.
11. Masks should be washed with soap and hot water, rinsed thoroughly and ironed.

DR A PILLAY
ACTING DIRECTOR-GENERAL

President to outline expanded COVID-19 economic & social relief

President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation this evening – Tuesday, 21 April 2020 – on additional economic and social relief measures that form part of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The President’s address flows from recent deliberations at Cabinet, the National Coronavirus Command Council, the President’s Coordinating Council, and the National Economic Development and Labour Council, among others.

The Presidency will in the course of the day announce the time for the President’s address which will be broadcast on radio and television and will be streamed live.

 President’s Speech on 20th April 2020 from the desk of the President

Dear Fellow South African,

Many countries around the world have imposed coronavirus lockdowns with a view to saving the lives of their citizens. We have done the same in our country, but our lockdown has revealed a very sad fault line in our society that reveals how grinding poverty, inequality and unemployment is tearing the fabric of our communities apart.

There can be no greater anguish than that of a parent whose children cry out to them for food, but they have none to give.

There can be no greater injustice than a society where some live in comfort and plenty, while others struggle at the margins to survive with little or nothing at all.

Yes, these are the residual effects of a fractured and unequal past. But they are also a symptom of a fundamental failing in our post-apartheid society. The nationwide lockdown in response to the coronavirus has gravely exarcerbated a long-standing problem.

Over the past three weeks, we have been confronted with distressing images of desperate people clamouring for food parcels at distribution centres and of community protests against food shortages.

We have also had to contend with allegations both disturbing and disgusting. A number of provinces have received reports that callous individuals, some of them allegedly government officials, are hoarding or selling food parcels earmarked for the needy and destitute, or diverting them to their friends and families.

If there is found to be substance to these allegations we will deal with the individuals concerned harshly.

With the declaration of a national state of disaster and the imposition of a nation-wide lockdown we entered uncharted waters. South Africa has never had to deal with a public health emergency of this magnitude.

We had to act quickly to save lives. And we must acknowledge that in the days and weeks that have followed, the provision of support to our country’s most vulnerable citizens has been slower than required, and that lapses have occurred.

However, the payment of social grants has proceeded relatively smoothly, and after a number of technical challenges, the food distribution system is being streamlined.

Imposing a nationwide lockdown at very short notice presented several challenges. We have had to weigh up the proportionality of the national response and the extent of restrictions we would need to impose.

We ultimately chose to err on the side of caution. And as the presentation by the Ministry of Health last week indicated, enforcing a lockdown at the time we did has slowed down the rate of infection and, more importantly, bought us time to prepare for a probable surge in infections in the coming weeks and months.

We had to consider the impact on an already floundering economy in both the long and short term, and the impact of this substantial disruption on the livelihoods of millions of people.

We had to consider what weeks of confinement to the home would mean for the employed not paid regular salaries, for the unemployed and those seeking work, for those in casual or seasonal employment, for those in the informal sector, for the indigent and for the vulnerable.

Cabinet will finalise a set of measures to respond to the impact of the lockdown on the livelihoods of our people. This has been preceded by a range of engagements with a number of stakeholders including business, labour, religious organisations, civil society and the Presidential Economic Advisory Council.

The social partners have put forward a number of proposals on interventions that could address the immediate vulnerability of the poorest of the poor, most of whom rely on social assistance to survive.

We will scale up welfare provision during this period to help households living below the poverty line.

Even when the nation-wide lockdown is lifted, its effects will continue to be felt for some time to come.

Those fortunate to have a steady income will be able to return to their jobs; but for millions of others this will be a lost month where they would otherwise have found temporary work, done business in the informal sector or saved money earned to meet their family responsibilities.

Food support is a short-term emergency measure. It will need to be matched by sustainable solutions that help our most vulnerable citizens weather the difficult times that are still to come.

I wish to thank the many NGOs, religious groups and ordinary citizens who are donating money and volunteering to help feed the hungry and destitute.

Alleviating hunger is not an act of charity. It is an imperative for any society that is founded on respect for human rights.

We are at a point in our battle with the pandemic where complacency could prove disastrous. I call on each and every one to remain vigilant, to continue to abide by the regulations, and to keep safe and keep others safe.

As government we will this week be providing information on the direct interventions we are taking to shield our most vulnerable citizens from the grim prospect of starvation.

Among the many difficulties our people face at this time, wondering where their next meal will come from should not be one of them.

With best wishes,

BAN ON SALE OF ALCOHOL TO REMAIN IN FORCE

The Presidency has declined the request of the Gauteng Liquor Forum for its members to sell alcohol during the declared national state of disaster.

The restriction on the sale of liquor will remain.

The decision was communicated to the Forum’s attorneys on 17 April 2020 via the offices of the State Attorney.

The President and government as a whole remain committed to financially supporting businesses in distress during this period.

The President has carefully considered the representations made by the Gauteng Liquor Forum.

These however have had to be weighed up against the imperative of all South African businesses and citizens to comply with the lockdown regulations, the health implications of consumption of alcohol and the priority to ensure social distancing during this principle. As such, alcohol is not considered an essential good or item. It is in fact considered a hindrance to the fight against the coronavirus.

The President furthermore considered representations from other stakeholders who have pointed to the causal relationship between alcohol intoxication and abuse, and risky behaviour.

There are proven links between the sale and consumption of alcohol and violent crime, motor vehicle accidents and other medical emergencies at a time when all private and public resources should be preparing to receive and treat vast number of COVID19 patients.

The President has further noted that the Gauteng Liquor Forum’s position is not shared by all industry stakeholders; and that a number of other organizations in the liquor industry have rejected the call for the restrictions to be lifted.

In response to concerns raised by the Gauteng Liquor Forum that small business in the liquor trade may suffer financial loss during this period, the Presidency has once again drawn the Forum’s attention to the assistance provided by the Tourism Relief Fund, the Department of Small Business Development, the Unemployment Insurance Fund and private endeavours such as the South African Future Trust amongst others. 
These funds and institutions provide capped grant assistance to small, micro and medium enterprises, to ensure sustainability during this period, as well as support to employees of these enterprises.

It is common cause that the containment of the coronavirus has resulted in financial strain for many businesses across all sectors, and not just those in the liquor industry.

Government stands ready to assist them within the available means to alleviate this hardship.

The Presidency has further communicated to the Gauteng Liquor Forum once again the factors weighed by the National Coronavirus Command Council, the Cabinet and the President himself following communication earlier in the week that these measures would be considered during various engagements.

The Presidency has re-iterated that the decision to impose a nationwide was not taken lightly by the Executive, but based on the preponderance of all relevant factors and advise.

The overarching consideration has always been and remains the safety of South Africans.

The government remains willing to engage with all concrete constructive proposals to ease both the threat to life and the economic challenges occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic.

Statement on the Special Cabinet Meeting of Wednesday, 15 April 2020

A virtual Special Cabinet Meeting was held on 15 April 2020, to discuss the socio-economic recovery plan post the COVID-19 National Lockdown.

This follows the announcement made by President Cyril Ramaphosa two weeks ago, that the Cabinet would have a full discussion to come up with an economic recovery plan for the country.

Five presentations were received from the clusters: (1) Economic Sectors, Investment, Employment and Infrastructure Development; (2) Governance, State Capacity and Institutional Development; (3) Social Protection, Community and Human Development; (4) International Cooperation, Trade and Security; and (5) Justice, Crime Prevention and Security.

The presentations were a culmination of the work done by all the Cabinet clusters, focusing on the country’s economic recovery as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent downgrading of South Africa by ratings agencies Moody’s and Fitch respectively.

Cabinet resolved that further discussions and consultations are still required before the final consolidated plan is approved to be shared with the nation.

All the Cabinet clusters have been asked to work together to produce one consolidated document on key priorities of the country’s economic recovery plan, to be completed before the next Cabinet Meeting scheduled to take place on Monday, 20 April 2020.

Cabinet has also directed Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to prepare an updated report on the South African Airways, for discussion at the upcoming meeting. Thereafter, Cabinet will finalise the country’s economic recovery plan.

Cabinet thanks all people across the country for staying at home during the lockdown period.

Ministers Remarks for 14th April 2020

Good afternoon fellow South Africans


The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the greatest challenges that has ever faced our nation.


It is three simultaneous shocks. It is a health shock, which will stretch the resources of our health care system to its limit. It is a global economic shock, which will substantially reduce global economic growth and consequently external demand, and it is a domestic economic shock, because our domestic responses will reduce economic activity, both from a demand side and a supply side.


In situations such as this, we know that the health and lives of our fellow South Africans must come first. An out-of-control pandemic would hit the economy extremely hard. It is increasingly clear that, led by our President, we have chosen the right path.

The figures presented by the Minister of Health and his team yesterday show that we are indeed ‘flattening the curve’. Across the world, as of 10:30 am this morning, globally there have been 1.9 million coronavirus cases, and 119,806 deaths. 453,308 people have recovered.

In South Africa, we have kept cases down and deaths down. Our curve is not rising exponentially, indeed at this point it has a welcome kink.

President Ramaphosa has extended the lockdown by a further two weeks until the end of April. We continue to reiterate pleas calling on all South Africans to stay at home unless it is necessary for them to be outside.

The health of our people, and their lives, must come first. But we must also ensure that we protect their livelihoods.


The economic outlook
Our health approach to this lockdown is ‘data-dependent’. Similarly, our economic response will be data-dependent, and we will evaluate and update our response on a continuous basis.
A short while ago, the Monetary Policy Committee reduced interest rates by a further 100 basis points. Their flexibility, and willingness to act speedily is similar to the approach of many other  central banks.


Going into this health care crisis, the economy was already in recession. Without doubt, given what we know since February, COVID-19 will certainly further deepen the South African downturn woes.


Our internal scenario planning has mapped out the economic impact of different lockdown scenarios, together with the consequent different paths for the fiscal deficit, for government borrowing and for the fiscal response.

At this stage, our central scenario is for a deep recession in 2020, followed by a rapid upswing in economic growth.


Critically, the path relies on an understanding of how the global economy will adjust.

We are in constant conversation with the teams at multilateral bodies, domestic and local economists, and of course the South African Reserve Bank. We are also monitoring domestic and global high frequency data to ensure that we understand as well as we can the ongoing evolution of the economy. Our sophisticated banking and payment system provides us with near real time payment data. This shows a substantial reduction in transactions in retail, hospitality and food and drink. There was a spike in activity in food (and alcohol) sales prior to the lockdown, and in the first
weekend of the lockdown, but these have now settled. In addition, there was large ATM activity in the first weekend, but now things have normalised.


This provides inputs into our forecasting process. The forecasts we have been receiving so far vary from the optimistic to the deeply pessimistic. On the relatively optimistic side, the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has highlighted that economic growth in South Africa will shrink
 by less than other emerging markets, in part because South Africa is not a net oil exporter.


The International Monetary Fund’s April 2020 World Economic Outlook will be released later today. Current estimates from the IMF show global growth contracting this year by about 2.9 per cent.

For South Africa, their initial estimate was for an economic contraction of 5.8 per cent. Other estimates vary.

The most recent official sector forecast is that issued by the South African Reserve Bank a few minutes ago. The Bank expects GDP in 2020 to contract by 6.1 per cent, compared to the -0.2 per cent expected just three weeks ago. GDP is expected to grow by 2.2 per cent in 2021 and by 2.7 per cent in 2022.


The Bank’ s headline consumer price inflation forecast averages 3.6 per cent for 2020, 4.5 per cent for 2021, and 4.4 per cent in 2022. The forecast for core inflation is lower at 3.8% in 2020, 4.0 per cent in 2021, and 4.2 per cent in 2022.

But like I have alluded to in the past, every crisis is an opportunity for us to address our problems and challenges.


The pandemic, and the response to the pandemic, will cause major disruptions to global supply chains. Lockdowns in many countries will reduce consumption, and consequently global demand. This will reduce our exports. Global growth has been revised sharply lower. Our economy is also highly dependent on services, particularly tourism. These will be affected by the global travel ban. These are only two examples of how we will be affected by a complex and unfolding global emergency.


As a small open economy we regularly experience external shocks. For this reason, we have chosen a flexible exchange rate as an automatic stabilser, and monetary policy framework that is  anchored by an inflation target.


This approach has served us well in the past, through many crises, and it is serving us well at present.

In line with the experience of other emerging markets – and similar to other shocks we have experienced in the past – the exchange rate has depreciated significantly and bond yields have risen. Despite historic levels of volatility, the National Treasury has continued borrowing in the domestic market, albeit at record high yields. Due to Treasury’s prudent long-term borrowing strategy, these higher yields will only slowly feed through into higher borrowing costs.

In addition, Government has significant cash buffers available. These can be deployed should there be a significant prolonged disruption in markets.

PHASE 1 OF THE ECONOMIC POLICY RESPONSE
When the lockdown was announced, we acted immediately to announce a set of Phase 1 economic measures.
These included:
1. Immediate release of funds to where they were needed
2. An Instruction Note 8 of 2019/20 applicable to Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) institutions and a Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) Circular 100 for municipalities and municipal entities, 
to speed up the procurement of goods/commodities required to reduce and control the spread of the virus.

3. A first set of exceptional tax measures as part of the fiscal package. These measures are over and above the tax proposals made in the 2020 Budget on 26 February 2020. The tax adjustments are made in light of the National State of Disaster and due to the significant and potentially lasting negative impacts on the economy from the spreading of the COVID-19 virus.

4. The Office of the Auditor General announced a conditional Exemption Notice in order to ensure effective and efficient service delivery and to minimise any potential delay in decision making. The conditional Exemption Notice will also facilitate and enable legislative processes during the period of the national state of disaster.

All these measures are available on the National Treasury’s website.

Banking and finance market interventions
The banking and finance industry have also taken a steps to help ease the impact of COVID-19


South Africa has a safe, sound, well-regulated and resilient financial sector. We have deep and liquid markets. Since the global financial crisis, we have taken steps to strengthen the banking system, including increasing capital, improving liquidity and reducing leverage. As a result, the banking and financial system is particularly resilient.

To support the real economy, the following steps have been taken by the South African Reserve Bank:

1. In line with its Constitutional mandate, the South African Reserve Bank cut the repo rate initially by 100 basis points and an additional 100 bps a short while ago. This will put money straight back into the economy.

2. The Bank has also proactively provided additional liquidity to the financial system. This includes purchasing of government bonds in the secondary market to ensure that there is sufficient liquidity in the government bond market.

3. Regulatory requirements are expected to release lending of up to R550 billion into the economy, including a reduction in capital requirements of R30.7 billion in capital and a reduction in liquidity requirements. In addition, up to R3 trillion in total exposures will benefit from changes to rules around restructuring.

4. Guidance to reduce dividends and bonuses will ensure that banks use capital wisely.


As the President highlighted in his address, Many large institutions have used force majeure to stop paying suppliers. Those who can, should continue to pay (on top of salaries) their suppliers and rentals, to ensure that the underlying economy continues to function and to focus support on those small businesses that really need them. The measures we have announced will assist with cash flow, the aim is to maintain productive capacity, and income for employees.


Banking
In the spirit of working together with Government, the largest banks have announced a number of measures to help their customers, including Instalment reductions, interest and fee deferrals, extension of loan terms, processes to help qualifying customers access debt relief packages like the South African Future Trust and government SME relief schemes, fee waivers and other relief efforts.

Insurance
Insurance companies have made a number of interventions. These vary across different companies, such as:

  • Premium holidays and premium deferrals on a case by case basis
  • Paying suppliers in shorter periods to assist with improved cash flow in the system.
  • Pre-payment of claims or parts thereof before final assessment and increasing the “grace” period for premium payment.
  • Business interruption claims due to COVID-19 to be considered on a case by case basis, and working on clear guidance on how pandemic exemptions will work
  • Reduced excesses; and
  •  Leniencies on missed debits

PHASE 2 OF THE ECONOMIC POLICY RESPONSE
This was only the first phase of our response. In light of our data-dependent approach, we are working tireless to develop an a phase 2 set of interventions.


Most importantly, the crisis is an important opportunity for government to implement structural reforms to: Restructure the network industries; Liberate SMMEs to be the engines of growth and employment; and Broad-based measures to lower the cost of doing business.

We will naturally revise our fiscal framework to take into account the effect of COVID- 19 on the fiscus.

There are a number of elements to our fiscal response:
1. Putting forward clear estimates of the additional health care costs that will be needed
2. Reprioritising unnecessary expenditure towards these health care costs
3. The impact of slowdown on our projections for revenue
4. It should be costed as much as possible (how much is needed?);
5. It should be temporary (clear timeline of 1 year);
6. It must be crafted as a 3
rd line of defence for the vulnerable
7. A clear plan to restore fiscal sustainability and limit the pace of debt accumulation and the growth of contingent liabilities
8. Supported by an economic recovery plan (structural reforms) and a set of reforms within the fiscal system e.g. clarity on road tolling, reforming the road accident fund in order to unlock that revenue for the fiscus and core government priorities, and consolidation of public entities and reviewing our portfolio of state-owned enterprises.


Together with my colleagues in the economic cluster, have put together a few proposals on how we can further grow the economy. These will announced shortly. Amongst the measures we are looking is expanded support for SMME lending through the banking system, similar to in other countries.


Government, through National Treasury, is exploring all funding avenues to finance all Covid-19 related programmes and measures aimed at addressing the pandemic. The funding avenues will not be limited locally, but will include exploring all global partners and international finance institutions. Funding transactions will be announced officially once concluded.


Going back to opportunities emerging from this crisis, we as the government have reiterated, the commitment to implement structural economic reforms to address the weak economic growth, constrained fiscus and ailing state-owned companies.

The Covid-19 pandemic and measures taken to address its spread have had a substantial negative impact on economic growth and government’s fiscal position. The pre-existing fiscal position was precarious, and we must ensure that whatever we do does not harm our long-run fiscal sustainability. The fiscus’ ability to respond to crisis is weak.


The 2020 Budget was already mildly expansionary and supportive of growth. In particular, the fiscal consolidation path was designed to strengthen our fiscal health. Fiscal health is a necessary, but not sufficient condition, for sustained growth.

Several priority areas were growing at above inflation rates including capital spending. Beyond the COVID crisis, a major risk facing the economy and the focus is if long-run economic growth returns to the pre-crisis averages of between 1 to 2 per cent. Higher levels of economic growth need to become a non-negotiable objective.

In the absence of urgent structural reforms, the considerable fiscal actions to mitigate the current crisis may leave the focus on at the edge of a cliff. For example, we must, without any hesitation, act to implement the President’s announcements on electricity, and rapidly work to implementing the range of reforms that we had already set out.

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.

Critical PPE secured for frontline healthcare workers

Together the Motsepe Foundation and associated companies, Business for South Africa and the Solidarity Fund have secured critical stock of 200 000 three ply masks, 100 000 KN95 masks and sterile gloves and surgical masks for use by frontline doctors, nurses and healthcare workers.

This stock is immediately available in South Africa, and will be prioritised for use in the public healthcare sector across the country.

This forms part of Government and the Business sector’s key objective to ensure there is a consistent, forward-looking supply of critical personal protective equipment (PPE) in South Africa to protect healthcare workers who are working tirelessly to ensure the public remains safe during this unprecedented global healthcare crisis.

The Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, was joined by the Deputy Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla and the MEC of Health in Gauteng Dr Bandile Masuku at the Motsepe Foundation to ceremoniously receive the consignment that will be handed over to the Department of Health. “Ultimately, this is about our valued health care workers. Business and Government have come together because we all share the concerns of Unions and our workers that health workers must be protected as they fight Coronavirus at the frontlines. No health care workers will be fielded without PPE’s and adequate training because we need our workers healthy and protected,” he said.

Dr Patrice Motsepe, Chairman of the Motsepe Foundation, said “We are most grateful to the health workers for their sacrifices and commitment to provide treatment and to help patients and other South Africans to overcome the coronavirus pandemic.   We would also like to thank the President and the Ministers of Health and Trade, Industry and Competition, for their outstanding leadership during these challenging times.  South Africans, including business and labour, have come together in the true spirit of Ubuntu, compassion and selflessness.  The Motsepe family and companies that we are associated with, will continue to do everything possible to assist health workers, poor rural and urban communities and all South Africans to prevail over the current coronavirus pandemic.”

Business for South Africa’s Health Workgroup’s key priority is to support Government and the country’s healthcare workers by ensuring there is a consistent supply of critical protective equipment necessary to keep them safe during the pandemic.  This includes global sourcing of PPE, of which significant orders have already been placed and which have already begun landing in South Africa; accelerating local production of critical equipment; and issuing an ongoing call to all companies and industries across South Africa who have access to PPE stocks, to urgently donate or divert them in the national interest.  Companies that have stocks are asked to email: covid19supplies@businessresponsecovid19.co.za

Mr Stavros Nicolaou, who leads the Business for South Africa’s Health Workgroup, comments: “One of our most critical objectives in turning the tide against the pandemic is to ensure the full availability and productivity of our health workforce.  This week is International Health Workers’ Week.  On behalf of every person in South Africa, we would like to thank all our doctors, nurses and community healthcare workers for their unconditional commitment to ensuring South Africans remain safe.  Their devotion to their work and to South Africa is deeply appreciated.”

The occasion poignantly fell on World Health Day which focuses on the role of Nurses and Midwives in the health care sector. As the World Health Organisation releases the first World State of Nursing Report, major efforts worldwide are being undertaken to secure the safety of health care workers globally. South Africa, like all countries, grapples to protect its own workforce in an increasingly volatile environment- the Minister elaborated on these dynamics: “…such strategic relationships with business and our favorable relations with key countries like China and India, who are the biggest manufacturers of PPE’s, are what enable us to secure stock in an increasingly competitive environment. I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the Motsepe Family, Stavros Nicoloau and the entire business and donor community for these timely and gracious interventions.”

Interventions to assist South Africa’s agricultural sector during COVID-19

The Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Ms Thoko Didiza, MP is pleased to announce the department’s interventions to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19.

The department has ring-fenced R1.2 billion for assistance to mainly target financially distressed small-scale farmers. Of the R1.2 billion, R400 million has been allocated for farmers within the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS) programme and the remainder will be channelled towards all other farmers that are mainly within the following commodity sectors:

· Poultry: Day old chicks, Point of lay chickens, feed, medication and sawdust;

· Other Livestock: Feed and medication.

· Vegetables: Seedlings, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and soil correction.

· Other commodity sectors will be evaluated on a case by case basis, as the Department continuously monitors the impact of COVID-19 on the sector at large.

Qualifying criteria for farmers

· South African citizens who have been actively farming for a minimum of 12 months and currently in the production season or cycle.

· Be registered on farmer register, commodity database or provincial database [Those who are not on the Farmer Register will be registered to benefit].

· Communal farmers.

· Smallholder farmers with annual turnover between R50 000 and R1 million.

· The adjudication will prioritise women, youth and people with disabilities.

Exclusions

Mechanisation, infrastructure and overhead costs will NOT be supported. This is not comprehensive support but intervention package amid COVID-19.

Farmers who are preparing for the 2020 summer production season will not be supported. The aim is to provide immediate to near-term support to smallholder farmers currently affected by COVID-19.

Farmers who are currently receiving support through other programmes of government and its entities.

No payment for debts.

The applications for this funding will be open from 08 April 2020 and will close on 22 April 2020. No late entries will be accepted. Application forms will be available on 08 April 2020 on the departmental website – www.dalrrd.gov.za and through national, provincial, district and local offices of both the national Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and Provincial Departments of Agriculture. Applications will be lodged electronically at applications@dalrrd.gov.za or submitted to the offices as outlined.

The Minister wishes to also encourage all stakeholders within the sector to observe and implement regulations as published by Government Notice No. 318 of 18 March 2020, as amended by Government Notices Nos. R 398 of 25 March 2020 and R419 of 26 March 2020. The observation and implementation of these prescripts on health and occupational safety is also critical for the farmworkers, who are the backbone of the food supply system.

“I urge all employers within the sector to fully comply with all the applicable prescripts. Together, as stakeholders within the sector we have a mandate to ensure that there is access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for our country,” said Minister Didiza.

END

What measures are being taken to protect jobs and livelihoods and support the economy during the COVID-19 epidemic?

Access to credit and financial markets:
– The Reserve Bank has reduced interest rates by 100 basis points, making it easier for consumers and firms to access credit.
– A range of measures have been taken to support market liquidity and protect the banking system.

Support for businesses:
– The Employment Tax Incentive has been expanded to include all employees earning below R6,500 with a subsidy of R500, relieving the burden on businesses as they face a decline in revenue due to the lockdown.

– Businesses with a turnover of less than R50 million will be allowed to delay their PAYE tax payments over the next four months, and their provisional corporate income tax payments over the next six months, without penalties.

– The Department of Small Business Development has allocated R500 million to assist SMEs whose operations are affected by COVID-19.

– The Industrial Development Corporation has allocated R3 billion in funding for firms who produce essential goods to scale up their operations.

– The South Africa Future Trust has been established to provide a further R1billion in zero-interest loan funding to SMEs in distress.

– All major banks have announced options for payment holidays and debt restructuring for SMEs and individuals who cannot meet their obligations.

Support for workers and individuals:
– The Unemployment Insurance Fund has created a special COVID-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme with over R30 billion to provide income support to workers where employers are unable to pay their full salaries due to the lockdown.

– The Department of Social Development, working with community-based organisations and the Solidarity Fund, is scaling up its food distribution programme for households in need.

I am a business owner. How can I access support during the lockdown?

If you cannot pay the full salaries of your employees:
• Apply for the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s COVID-19 TERS benefit by sending an email to covid19ters@labour.gov.za. You will receive an automated reply with instructions on how to proceed. The fund will contribute a portion of the employee’s salary up to a maximum of R17,712 per month for each employee.

If you are in financial distress and require grant or loan funding:
• You must register on https://smmesa.gov.za/ to be eligible for funding from the Debt Relief Finance Scheme. Once you have registered, you can download the application form on https://smmesa.gov.za/ or www.sefa.org.za and email it to smmerelief@sefa.org.za.

• Apply for relief funding from the South Africa Future Trust directly through your bank. If you have an account with Standard Bank, FNB, Absa or Nedbank, contact your bank to find out how to access this facility. Visit https://oppgen.com/saft/ for more information about the scheme.
If you have an account with Nedbank, visit https://www.nedbank.co.za/content/nedbank/desktop/gt/en/business/covid-19-relief1/SAFT1.html
If you have an account with Standard Bank, visit 
https://www.standardbank.co.za/southafrica/business/covid-19/south-african-future-trust
• Contact the bank where you have an existing account to enquire about payment holidays and options for debt restructuring.

If you produce an essential good or service and require funding to scale up your operations:
• Apply to the Industrial Development Corporation for working capital, loan or trade finance to support your operations. Email covid@idc.co.za, call 0860 693 888,
or visit 
https://www.idc.co.za/2020/03/24/idc-interventions-in-response-to-covid-19/ for more information.

Statement of the Minister of Health Launch of Mobile Laboratories National Health Laboratory Services

1 April 2020

Let me start by conveying our deepest shock and sadness at the loss of Professor Gita Ramjee, one of our top vaccine research scientist and an HIV prevention research leader. She had returned from London a week ago but reportedly showed no symptoms of COVID-19 initially. We convey our condolences to her family, loved ones and colleagues- this is indeed a great loss for the South African academic community.

As at today, the total confirmed COVID-19 cases are at 1380. This is an increase of 27 cases from yesterdays announcement:

The Provincial breakdown is as follows:

Province Number of Cases
Gauteng 645
Western Cape 326
KwaZulu Natal 186
Free State 76
North West 9
Northern Cape 7
Eastern Cape 15
Mpumalanga 12
Limpopo 14
Unallocated 90

To date 44292 people have been tested largely in private laboratories. A total of 47541 tests have been completed, of which about 6000 were performed in the public National Health Laboratory
Service.

This is way too few considering the size of our population and other important factors such as inequality, poverty and underlying disease burden we have.

The President has approved a COVID Home Visits Program”, of mass community-based screening, referral for clinic testing, quarantine of suspected cases and appropriate care for COVID-19 patients.

The program includes the deployment of Community Health Care Workers to the field for door-todoor household screening. Each province has been requested to start working on this strategy, by
deploying provincial community health care workers with, appropriate Personal Protective Equipment, to undertake a house-to-house programme of 
no-touch” screening for COVID-19 symptoms and to refer symptomatic people to clinics for testing.

In addition, PEPFAR- funded District Support Partners to support provinces in this Program have been availed.

The CSIR and Right to Care have assisted us in mapping the most vulnerable populations- through this process 993 strategic priority wards were identified using the social vulnerability index.
We take this opportunity to thank these partners for joining us in the war against COVID-19. 
Tonight, a list of priority districts will be finalized by MECs in a teleconference.

LAUNCH OF MOBILE TESTING UNITS
To ensure there is adequate capacity to test citizens being screened, the NHLS has procured 60 mobile vans, in addition to the 7 currently deployed to provinces, totaling 67 mobile testing units.
Today, we are here to launch these mobile laboratories that will be deployed across the country to all districts and metropolitan municipalities.

At this stage, the focus will be on collecting nasopharyngeal specimens for PCR tests or GeneXpert testing. The current capacity is 5000 tests in 24 hours in 10 laboratories countrywide- when we reach full capacity we will be able to process 30 000 tests per 24 hours.

Rapid antibody tests have been used in many countries throughout the world and we are aware that there is interest in using these tests in South Africa. Our authorities are working round the clock to assess the efficacy of these tests in our context with the aim to make them available for future application.

MESSAGE TO MECS
This morning I sent a per my personal message MECs as colleagues and leaders in this fight to save our nation from probably the most devastating enemy that has ravaged many nations and destroyed many lives in recent times

I send this note as a way to encourage them all to be strong in the face of what may become the worst challenge our country may face for generations. I believe that if we are focused and united we can collectively defeat COVID 19.

We have seen a slower growth of COVID 19 positive cases in the past few days I ascribe this to several factors:
Firstly we closed borders and reduced importation of infection
Secondly, enforcing quarantine of the inbound travelers and returning citizens has slowed down the infection from the traveling community to a resident community
Thirdly the lockdown slowed internal transmission by reducing the risk of spread through large gatherings and overcrowded transport routes in trains buses and taxis

However there are areas we must be alert to. We need more vigilance now than ever before Internal transmission has started and it may have tendency to spread silently as people with less means and slight symptoms may be slow to seek medical help as they are few and far apart initially.

Our testing criteria of patients with symptoms is currently reactive and restrictive By and large, people with access to private family practitioners have tested- most of whom had history of travel to epicenters in western capitals and are easy to suspect if they develop symptoms This means we dont yet have a true picture of the size of the problem We need to test hundreds of thousands of the population to get a better picture to refine our containment strategy The lockdown may have had the inadvertent effect of limiting access to health facilities for those who depend on public health services in poor and densely populated and underserved communities because of transport difficulties.

This means that the release of a lockdown may have a huge rebound effect of releasing every constraint that made the infection slowdown and we may have a runaway train with no way to apply
brakes.

We need to engage all community leaders and call for volunteers in community and civil society formations to support the campaign, spread the message and teach our people to take the containment measures seriously and support all affected individuals and families.

The message of stay at home and importance of hygiene must be made more emphatically. The message must be that COVID-19 is serious but can be defeated and we need each person to make this a personal fight to save the nation.

Those on antiretroviral treatment and other chronic ailments must stick strictly to their medication.

Each persons actions will count
Let us break the chain of the coronavirus infection.
Next month the flu season starts, thus making more people sick with similar symptoms, and therefore no way of distinguishing common colds from an upsurge of COVID-19 infection.

These will flood our clinics and hospitals and create fertile ground for Coronavirus to spread or be masked in its presentation.

This means what we may currently be experiencing is the calm before a heavy and devastating storm.

There will therefore be no further warning before the pounding descends upon us.

There will not be time to prepare what we will not have put in place in the next seven days.

My plea to all my colleagues was to move with speed on the following:
1) Setting up of mobile units of health workers to move into communities with cases or contacts and set up testing and screening in communities initially starting with the symptomatic and then extending to the greater community. We will now procure rapid test kits, taking into account any of the flaws anyone may point out. We will roll out testing and surveillance and start isolation treatment of patients and quarantine of contacts at an accelerated pace.
This means we will go out look for and find patients and not wait for them in hospital.
We will focus on dismantling the infection cycle by proactive action, rather than a reactive approach adopted up to now. We now combine the offensive strategy with the current defensive strategy used up to now .

There must be clearly defined targets at district and sub district levels structures with a clear short command line led by experienced professionals who can take clinical decisions quickly and act on the spot.

2) We need to procure additional beds and dedicated treatment Centres where only COVID 19 patients will be treated in every town. Where necessary we will find treatment centers and places to treat near communities where the burden of infection is high

3) More quarantine beds must be identified with clear lines of control and food supplies as well as monitoring of temperatures daily, beginning with areas where the disease has been detected already.


4) Health professionals must be earmarked for release to focus on COVID 19 when the storm hits us. We are requesting reinforcements from countries such as Cuba and China via WHO and these should be expected from next week. They must find our machinery well organized to reinforce effectively.

5) Encourage the release from hospitals of those patients that can be managed as outpatients and reduce hospital patient load and risk of cross infections.


6) Every institution, that is hospitals or clinics, must do daily reports of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases and take necessary steps to protect staff and patients and prevention of further spread.


7) All treatment and PPE requirements must be stocked for several weeks of supplies. National Department of Health and Provincial Departments must assess areas where interventions are
necessary to prepare for heavy loads of patients from end of this week Protective gear must be available for all health workers and every staff member must be taught to suspect infection and prevent spread and protect themselve.

8) Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Free State must prepare dedicated capacity for additional hospital beds for COVID 19 and report progress every week.


Based on personal observations the pounding of COVID 19 has started and it will intensify from this week and we may see rising mortality rates. We are losing families friends colleagues community members health and other professionals across all age groups.

We will look at scientific models when these are ready but we now have enough evidence to indicate that unless we move fast we will soon be swarmed.


We no longer have time.
We need to be strong focused and courageous.
We need to be decisive in our actions.
We need to escalate our response to a higher level.

I appealed for a focus on implementation and less on arguments and debates.
There can never be a perfect plan in a battle. Ground experience will refine our actions. Academic debates have their place but during this ground offensive we will entertain advices that refine and
improve our effectiveness.


The country
s future will depend on our swift coordinated actions
END

South Africa’s COVID-19 testing capacity increased with 60 new mobile lab units launched

Minister of Health Dr. Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday launched 60 new mobile laboratories to boost the country’s capacity to test for COVID-19.

During a media briefing in Johannesburg, Mkhize announced that the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) has procured 60 mobile sampling and testing units which will be deployed nationwide to all priority districts and metros.

This brings the total number of mobile testing units to 67.

Speaking at the launch, Mkhize said the mobile testing units, which are uniquely-fitted vans, have been equipped to carry out the same function as a laboratory.

“They will focus on sampling a range of specimens for PCR tests…These mobile units will also be used for rapid test kits when these become available,” Mkhize said.

South Africa currently has the capacity to conduct 5,000 tests for COVID-19 daily. However, with the addition of mobile testing units, combined with 180 testing sites and 320 testing units across the country, this number will now increase six-fold.

“44,201 people have been tested largely in private labs, of which just over 6,000 [have been tested] in public national health laboratory services. This for us is way too few for the size of the population, the inequality, poverty and the underlying burden of diseases and immune suppression that we have,” Mkhize said.

“So even though this number seems high, it is still way to low for the kind of challenges that South Africa faces.”

Mkhize will hold a teleconference with provincial MECs to identify the priority districts that the mobile testing units will be sent to.

Minister Patel announces essential service application portal

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Ebrahim Patel has announced that all businesses that will be allowed to provide essential services are required to seek approval from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) in order for them to trade during the period of the lockdown in terms of the regulations published today by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Ms Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in Regulation Gazette No. 11062

Such businesses are required to apply to the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) Bizportal website at www.bizportal.gov.za and obtain a certificate from the Commission that allows them to continue trading. The Bizportal website will contain a menu icon listed as “Essential Service Businesses” through which an application can be made to the CIPC.

The application will be a simple declaration requiring minimal registration details, type of business/trade involved in, what trading name if any is used an d whether it meets the requirements contained in the essential services list, the contact details of the person applying as well as the number of employees that will be working during the lockdown period.

The CIPC registry will then pre-populate the remaining company information and email a certificate stating that the business is allowed to remain trading.

The certificate can then be used as evidence to authorities requiring same that indeed the business has been given government permission to trade and that its employees are able to have unrestricted movement ONLY in the course of that trade.

It should be stressed and noted that if you make a false application to the CIPC, and are indeed not an essential service as per the government regulations, such will be taken as a fraudulent application and will render yourself as applicant liable to criminal prosecution and sanction.

This service will be available tomorrow morning 26 March 2020 at the start of business trading hours.

Economic Mitigation and Relief Measures 

What measures are being taken to protect jobs and livelihoods and support the economy during the COVID-19 epidemic?

Access to credit and financial markets:

  • The Reserve Bank has reduced interest rates by 100 basis points, making it easier for consumers and firms to access credit.
  • A range of measures have been taken to support market liquidity and protect the banking system.

Support for businesses:

  • The Employment Tax Incentive has been expanded to include all employees earning below R6,500 with a subsidy of R500, relieving the burden on businesses as they face a decline in revenue due to the lockdown.
  • Businesses with a turnover of less than R50 million will be allowed to delay their PAYE tax payments over the next four months, and their provisional corporate income tax payments over the next six months, without penalties.
  • The Department of Small Business Development has allocated R500 million to assist SMEs whose operations are affected by COVID-19.
  • The Industrial Development Corporation has allocated R3 billion in funding for firms who produce essential goods to scale up their operations.
  • The South Africa Future Trust has been established to provide a further R1 billion in zero-interest loan funding to SMEs in distress.
  • All major banks have announced options for payment holidays and debt restructuring for SMEs and individuals who cannot meet their obligations.

Support for workers and individuals:

  • The Unemployment Insurance Fund has created a special COVID-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme with over R30 billion to provide income support to workers where employers are unable to pay their full salaries due to the lockdown.
  • The Department of Social Development, working with community-based organisations and the Solidarity Fund, is scaling up its food distribution programme for households in need.

I am a business owner. How can I access support during the lockdown?

If you cannot pay the full salaries of your employees:

  • Apply for the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s COVID-19 TERS benefit by sending an email to covid19ters@labour.gov.za. You will receive an automated reply with instructions on how to proceed. The fund will contribute a portion of the employee’s salary up to a maximum of R17,712 per month for each employee.

If you are in financial distress and require grant or loan funding:

  • You must register on https://smmesa.gov.za/ to be eligible for funding from the Debt Relief Finance Scheme. Once you have registered, you can download the application form on https://smmesa.gov.za/ or www.sefa.org.za and email it to smmerelief@sefa.org.za.
  • Apply for relief funding from the South Africa Future Trust directly through your bank. If you have an account with Standard Bank, FNB, Absa or Nedbank, contact your bank to find out how to access this facility. Visit https://opp-gen.com/saft/ for more information about the scheme.
  • Contact the bank where you have an existing account to enquire about payment holidays and options for debt restructuring.

If you produce an essential good or service and require funding to scale up your operations:

Minister Mantashe meets with the mining industry to consolidate plans to deal with COVID-19

The Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Mr Gwede Mantashe (MP), today met with the leadership of the Minerals Council in Johannesburg, to receive an update on plans in place for the sector to adequately respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic. This follows the briefing by the President of the Republic, HE Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday, wherein a comprehensive plan was outlined, detailing how the country will respond in the short to medium term.

The department’s health and safety inspectorate, working together with the mining companies and labour unions in the sector, are on high alert, and are testing the sector’s level of preparedness, with a focus on preventative control and managing any emerging risks for employees and communities in which mines operate.

Work in the industry began over a month ago after the World Health Organisation announced the outbreak, with a focus on preventative control, and managing any emerging risks.
A ten-point plan has been developed in line with the Department of Health (DoH) and National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) guidelines The Department continues to engage with the sector on – among others – use of their medical facilities for the broader communities around mining operations, as well as the use of any safe and unoccupied housing facilities for quarantine, should the need arise.

Thus far no infections have been reported in the sector.

“Working together we have made great strides on the health and safety front in the sector. We are confident that our continued partnership to proactively manage the humanitarian and economic impact of this pandemic on the sector, will go a long way,” Minister Mantashe said.

Engagements between Government and the sector are ongoing.

Outcome of NEDLAC special EXCO on the Covid-19 Epidemic

We are committed together to save lives and save the economy was the message from a special Executive Council meeting of National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) convened to discuss a common programme to slow down the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Over 60 leaders from organised business, labour, government and community attended the meeting including the Presidents of both COSATU and NACTU, the leadership of BUSA and BBC and the Ministers of Labour, Trade, Industry and Competition, Finance and Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and the Deputy Ministers of Health and Trade, Industry and Competition.

The social partners acknowledged that this situation is unprecedented and requires an unprecedented response.  “The Covid 19 crisis will require the best traditions of social partnership to ensure that we contain the spread of the virus and make every effort to protect employment, earnings and industrial output”, said the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel.

The meeting agreed to work together in the following areas to support the call of the President, Cyril Ramaphosa on 15th March 2020 for “co-operation, collaboration and common action:

  • Enhancing the public health response

The social partners committed to intensifying public health messages as well as implementing the identified ways of improving hygiene to curb the spread of the virus to workplaces and into communities including through using national and local champions.

  • Containing the virus

The meeting recognised the importance of tracing contacts and testing to identify people who have contracted the virus.  The social partners agreed to work together with the Department of Health to ensure that every single person who has been in contact with someone who has the virus is tracked, traced and monitored so that they can if necessary be requested to self- isolate or go into quarantine. There was also agreement on the need to make testing accessible.

  • Security of health supplies and medical equipment

Ensuring the security of health supplies such as hand sanitizers, protective equipment for health professionals, and stocks for testing and treatment as well as ARV and other chronic medicines is critical.  Especially at a time when existing supply chains may be vulnerable and ineffective.

The social partners committed to working together to fast track, support and address the constraints to the importation, manufacturing and distribution of health supplies and medical equipment. In this regard, the meeting condemned panic buying which would put more and unnecessary pressures on supply chains.

  • Workplace adaption

The message from the meeting was that it can’t be regarded as ‘working as usual’ in this period. Workplaces will need to adapt in different ways to respond to the Covid-19 epidemic.

Employers and trade unions agreed to work together to manage issues like a short time, shift work, changing working hours and lunch breaks to reduce too many workers congregating in one place.  There was an acknowledgement that working from home and using online and technology platforms were important, where possible.

It was recognised that in the medium term, some of these workplace adaptions can also lead to economic opportunities such as an increase in the use of electronic technology for workplace communication.

  • Support workers and companies who are negatively impacted by the virus

It was acknowledged that many economic sectors and especially small and medium enterprises will be severely affected by the epidemic and that workers should not be punished by a reduction of income due to factors outside of their control.

“Employers have a legal duty of care towards their employees,” stressed the Minister of Labour, Thulas Nxesi. He indicated that the current occupational health and safety, unemployment insurance and compensation fund legislation provides for such circumstances including special leave where unemployment insurance can be claimed and where compensation can be given if an employee contracts the virus at his/her workplace.

The government indicated that they are committed to a number of additional measures to support companies and their employees who become distressed due to the negative impact of the Covid-19 epidemic including the recently established Temporary Employee Employer Relief Scheme administered jointly by the CCMA and UIF. However it was stressed that proper processes should be put in place so that these measures are not abused.

Thulani Tshufuta representing the community constituency at Nedlac stressed that there can be no place for stigmatisation and discrimination, because if this happens, then workers and community members are not likely to come forward about their symptoms of ill health.

  • Macro-economic impact and potential interventions

The government indicated that they are monitoring the economic impact of the virus and noted suggestions made by the social partners regarding the economic impact of this virus at a time when our economy is already very stressed.

Finally, the meeting recognised that there were areas that needed more attention to developing mitigation measures – most pressing was ways to contain the epidemic spreading through public transport and the impact of school closures on school feeding schemes.

The meeting agreed unanimously that a Nedlac Response Team should be set up urgently to address this and take forward the other issues discussed above.  In addition, organised business and labour were urged to embark on sector-specific engagements to give effect to the common commitments agreed.

Statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on measures to combat COVID-19 epidemic

15 MARCH 2020


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 experi-enced 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 coordinated 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.

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 dayswill 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.

2 of the 8 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 minimize the risk of the spread of this virus by limiting contact amongst groups of people.

While we appreciate the economic, religious, and cultural significance of social and community gatherings, the coronavirus is spread through contact between persons.

As we have said before, the current circumstances require extraordinary measures to curb the spread of infections. Countries that have heeded the call to implement these radical measures, have fared much better than those than do not.

Therefore to encourage social distancing Cabinet has decided on these additional measures:

Gatherings of more than 100 people will be prohibited.
Mass celebrations of upcoming national days such as Human Rights Day and other large government events will be cancelled.
Where small gatherings are unavoidable, organisers will need to put in place stringent measures of prevention and control.
Schools will be closed from Wednesday, 18 March, and will remain closed until after the Easter Weekend.
To compensate, the mid-year school holidays will be shortened by a week.

Government is working closely with colleges, universities and other public facilities such as Parliament, prisons, police stations and military installations to intensify hygiene control.

Visits to all correctional centres are suspend for 30 days with immediate effect.

Government is aware of the confirmed case of a student who has tested positive for the coronavirus at Wits University.
Those who have been in contact with the student will be quarantined.The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation is consulting with vice chancellors of universities and colleges across the country and will soon be announcing measures in this regard.

We call on all businesses including mining, retail, banking, farming to ensure that they take all necessary measures to intensify hygiene control. We also call on the management of malls, entertainment centres and other places frequented by large numbers of people to bolster their hygiene control.

Thirdly, to further strengthen our health response:
Government is strengthening its surveillance and testing systems. We are in process of identifying isolation and quarantine sites in each district and metro.
Capacity is being increased at designated hospitals in all provinces.
We are also increasing the capacity of existing contact tracing processes.
We are partnering with the private sector to set up a national tracking, tracing and monitoring system of all people infected with the coronavirus and those they have been in contact with
We are undertaking a mass communication campaign on good hygiene and effective prevention behaviour.

Therefore, we are calling on everyone to:
Wash their hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitisers for at least 20 seconds;
C
over their nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or flexed elbow
Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

In essence, we are calling for a change of behavior amongst all South Africans. We must minimise physical contact with other people, and, encourage the elbow greeting rather than shaking hands.


Because of the severity of this virus and its rapid spreading, government will make funding available to capacitate the sectors dealing with the national response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Since the outbreak of this pandemic, our government’s response has been led by an Inter-Ministerial Committee, chaired by the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize.

We congratulate them on the outstanding work they have done – together with their able support teams – to steer our country through this challenging and un-certain period.

As part of the intensification of this effort, we have decided to establish a National Command Council chaired by the President.
This Command Council will include, amongst others, members of the InterMinisterial Committee and will meet three times a week, to coordinate all aspects of our extraordinary emergency response.

My fellow South Africans,
In addition to the impact that this pandemic will have on health and wellbeing of our people, and the impact it will have on the day-to-day life of our society, COVID-19 will also have a significant and potentially lasting impact on our economy.


In the last few weeks, we have seen a dramatic decline in economic activity in our major trading partners, a sudden drop in international tourism and severe instability across all global markets.

The anticipated effects of the decline in exports and tourist arrivals will be exacerbated by both an increase in infections and the measures we are required to take to contain the spread of the disease.

This will have a potentially severe impact on production, the viability of businesses, job retention and job creation.

The cabinet is therefore in the process of finalising a comprehensive package of interventions to mitigate the expected impact of COVID-19 on our economy.

This package, which will consist of various fiscal and other measures, will be concluded following consultation with business, labour and other relevant institutions. It is clear that this disease will be extremely disruptive. Our priority must be to safeguard the health and well-being of all South Africans, to minimise the number of infections and to ensure all those infected get proper treatment.


While we are battling a contagious virus, perhaps the greatest dangers to our country at this time are fear and ignorance. We must appreciate the extent of the threat that this disease presents, we
must accept the anxiety that it causes, but we cannot allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by fear and panic.


We should stop spreading fake and unverified news and create further apprehension and alarm.

While we are facing a medical emergency far graver than we have experienced in recent times, we are not helpless. We have the knowledge, the means and the resources to fight this disease.
If we act swiftly, with purpose and collectively we can limit the effects of the coronavirus on our people and our country. Although we may be limiting physical contact, this epidemic has the
potential to bring us closer together.

We are responding as a united nation to a common threat. This national emergency demands cooperation, collaboration and common action. More than that, it requires solidarity, understanding and compassion. Those who have resources, those who are healthy, need to assist those who are in need and who are vulnerable.

All the institutions of the state will be mobilised to lead this effort, but, if we are to succeed, every company, trade union, NGO, university, college, school, religious group and taxi association will need to play its part.

We thank those people who suspected they may have been exposed to the virus for coming forward to be tested and for taking measures – such as self-isolation – to prevent further transmission.
We thank the medical teams around the country who are leading our response and are putting the well-being of others ahead of the risks they face themselves.

On Saturday we welcomed 104 of our compatriots who were in Wuhan City, China.
We thank the repatriation team for the task they performed with pride and efficiency to return them to the country and ultimately to their families. The repatriation has been successful and those who have returned have settled in the quarantine area.
We thank the military health officials, pilots, cabin crew and all those who participated in this exercise.
We thank the leadership and the people of Polokwane and Limpopo for warmly welcoming our fellow South Africans.
We also extend our gratitude to the staff and management of the Ranch Hotel who have accommodated our compatriots and also subjected themselves to quarantine.
We extend our appreciation too to the companies, organisations and individuals who have taken it upon themselves to disseminate information about this virus and to raise awareness.
We thank those businesses that have taken steps to protect their employees, and those unions that have taken steps to protect their members.

Ministers who are at the frontline of coordinating our response to this crisis will be briefing the nation tomorrow, where they will unpack details in relation to the measures we announced tonight.
Fellow South Africans, this is the most definitive Thuma Mina moment for our country.

I have great trust that our people will respond positively to this call to common action.

Fellow South Africans,
This epidemic will pass.
But it is up to us to determine how long it will last, how damaging it will be, and how long it will take our economy and our country to recover.
It is true that we are facing a grave emergency.
But if we act together, if we act now, and if we act decisively, we will
overcome it.
I thank you.

South Africa Coronavirus Update 9th March: Summary of Inter-Ministerial Press Briefing Civitas Building 9

On 9 March 2020, the Inter-Ministerial Committee dealing with all matters pertaining to COVID-19 met in Pretoria to address a number of emerging issues and developments in South Africa and globally. The Ministers present at the Interministerial Committee Meeting were:

  • The Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize
  • The Minister of DIRCO Ms Naledi Pandor
  • The Minister of Home Affairs Dr Aaron Motsoaledi
  • The Minister of COGTA Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma
  • The Minister of State Security Ms Ayanda Dlodlo
  • The Minister of Tourism Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane
  • The Minister of Rural Development, Agriculture and Land Reform Minister Ms Thokozile Didiza

The meeting was followed by a press briefing wherein the Minister of Health gave a situational update on the current state of affairs in the country and globally. It was announced that there were four new patients who have tested COVID-19 positive, bringing the total of confirmed COVID-19 positive patients to 7:

– a 38-year-old male who was symptomatic in KZN was the first case to test on 3 March. This patient-reported 13 contacts
– A 30-year-old female who was symptomatic in Gauteng. 13 contacts reported
– A 38-year-old female who was asymptomatic in KZN. 15 contacts reported
– A 38-year-old female in KZN who was asymptomatic. 16 contacts reported
– A 38-year-old male in KZN who was asymptomatic. 15 contacts reported
– A 45-year-old male who was symptomatic in KZN. 12 contacts reported
– A 38-year-old male in KZN with mild symptoms. 21 contacts reported.

All of these patients belonged to the group that travelled to the Province of Milan in Italy on a ski trip. There were 10 members of that travelling group and one did not return to South Africa but travelled to the UK. The remaining two travellers are currently under home quarantine and await their test results which should take about 48 hours to be concluded. All the patients are currently in isolation facilities where they are being treated. All contacts have been traced and are being tested. All contacts are currently under home-based quarantine. These quarantine procedures are benchmarked against world standards for home-based quarantine and are being strictly monitored by the contact tracing team. READ MORE…

South Africa Coronavirus Update: Statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Measures to Combat COVID-19 Epidemic

South Africa Coronavirus UpdateFellow 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. READ MORE…

South Africa Coronavirus Update 7th March: South Africa Confirms 2nd COVID-19 Case

South Africa Confirms 2nd COVID-19 CaseThe Minister of Health South Africa wishes to inform all South Africans that the second case of COVID-19 has now been confirmed in South Africa. The 39-year-old lady who is from Gauteng is direct contact to the first case from KwaZulu-Natal. She was part of the group of 10 that had travelled to Italy.

The public must be notified that we have information and know the whereabouts of all the other 10 people who were part of the group that had travelled to Italy. All those who came back to South Africa, are currently being tested. We are now awaiting their test results to come out. Since being traced, they have remained in isolation to avoid any further contact with third parties. READ MORE…

South Africa Coronavirus Update 7th March: South Africa to Evacuate its Nationals from China

South Africa to Evacuate its Nationals from China For the past three weeks, government consulting with stakeholders in the hospitality industry and all spheres of government with the view to identify suitable accommodation facilities for South African citizens who will be repatriated from Wuhan City in Hubei Province, China.

It should be remembered that the President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa announced the repatriation following a cabinet decided on this course of action and after due consideration of the circumstances, including several requests from the families of South Africans in the city. READ MORE…

South Africa Coronavirus Update: COVID-19 support for Feeding locals in South Africa ‘gangland’

South Africa Coronavirus UpdateSouth Africa’s Marc Nicholson’s sports club is famous for its humanitarian initiatives for the locals. The soup kitchen feeds over 300 people in this neighbourhood ridden with gang violence.

This time the club has launched a daily feeding programme in the Cape Town suburb of Lavender Hill to support vulnerable groups as the country battles COVID-19.

Mark Nicholson, founder of the Lavender Hill sports and recreational foundation, spoke about the initiative: “What’s going on here is a normal day of food distribution.

“Every day, at one o’clock, we feed about 320 people. It goes up to 350 with those who come after. That’s what we do every day, as part of  Coronavirus COVID-19.” READ MORE…

South Africa Coronavirus Update: First Case of COVID-19 Coronavirus Reported

South Africa Coronavirus Update

South Africa has also been affected by the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).  On March 5, 2020, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirmed that a suspected case of COVID-19 has tested positive. Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize confirmed that the virus spread to South Africa, with the first known patient being a male citizen, a 38-year-old male who travelled to Italy with his wife. They were part of a group of 10 people and they arrived back in South Africa on March 1, 2020.

The patient consulted a private general practitioner on March 3, with symptoms of fever, headache, malaise, a sore throat and a cough. The practise nurse took swabs and delivered it to the lab.

The patient has been self-isolating since March 3. The couple also has two children.

The Emergency Operating Centre (EOC) has identified the contacts by interviewing the patient and doctor. The tracer team has been deployed to KwaZulu-Natal with epidemiologists and clinicians from NICD. The doctor has been self-isolated as well.

This media briefing is to ensure that the public is immediately kept abreast. A press briefing will be held later after the parliamentary debate this evening to shed more light on this issue. READ MORE…

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June 11th, 2020|Blog|