Stay home, urges min­is­ter as cases in­crease


SOUTH Africa now has 709 con­firmed cases of Covid-19, up from 554 cases the pre­vi­ous day, Health Min­is­ter Zweli Mkhize said yes­ter­day.

The rise rep­re­sents a 28% day-on-day change, com­pared with the pre­vi­ous 38% day-on-day in­crease.

At mid­night tonight South Africa will go on a na­tion­wide 21-day lock­down in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19. Mkhize said South Africans should not be alarmed to see the num­bers con­tinue to rise over the next few days.

He warned that staying at home was im­per­a­tive.

“Peo­ple must stay at home, not travel around or mix in large groups. This dis­ease will not be de­feated by doc­tors and nurses. It will be de­feated by in­di­vid­u­als.”

The largest in­creases in the num­bers were in Gaut­eng, which saw 64 new cases overnight, fol­lowed by the Western Cape at 61 cases, the Free State with 15 and KwaZulu-Na­tal with 11 new cases, the health department said.

Mkhize said the rise in Free State cases was a con­cern be­cause the cases stemmed from a church service that was held in Bloem­fontein early this month.

Five for­eign na­tion­als from the US and Is­rael had trav­elled to South Africa and at­tended a church con­ven­tion at the Divine Restora­tion Church Min­istries, and had in­ter­acted with 300 peo­ple.

He said the source of the virus had been in­di­vid­u­als who had trav­elled from high-risk coun­tries in Europe.

Mkhize said that while two pa­tients had been ad­mit­ted into ICU, there had been no con­firmed deaths.

Quar­an­tine sites had been iden­ti­fied as the in­fec­tions con­tin­ued to rise.

South Africa has re­ported the most coro­n­avirus cases in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, and pub­lic health ex­perts are wor­ried the virus could over­whelm the health sys­tem if the in­fec­tion rate rises steeply.

Pub­lic Works Min­is­ter Pa­tri­cia de Lille told a news con­fer­ence that her min­istry had iden­ti­fied more than 16 000 beds in po­ten­tial quar­an­tine fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing govern­ment build­ings, ho­tels, holiday prop­er­ties and hos­pi­tals.

The Min­is­ter of Trans­port, Fik­ile Mbalula, yes­ter­day an­nounced strict mea­sures for the op­er­a­tion of trans­port dur­ing the shut­down. Mbalula said minibus taxis would be al­lowed to trans­port only es­sen­tial ser­vices work­ers.

Move­ment of both minibus taxis and e-hail­ing ser­vices would be al­lowed from 5am to 9am, and 4pm to 8pm. Mbalula said oper­a­tors should put ex­tra mea­sures in place to ad­here to so­cial dis­tanc­ing and sani­ti­sa­tion af­ter ev­ery trip.

“Lim­ited bus oper­a­tors will only be al­lowed to ren­der es­sen­tial ser­vices. All cross-bor­der road pas­sen­ger move­ment will be pro­hib­ited. Cross-bor­der freight move­ment for es­sen­tial goods will con­tinue to and from our neigh­bour­ing coun­tries,” said Mbalula.

He said all long-dis­tance pas­sen­ger rail ser­vices, both pub­lic and pri­vate, would stop for the du­ra­tion of lock­down.

He said ser­vices of Shosholoza Meyl, Pre­miere Classe, and Blue Train op­er­ated by the Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of South Africa and Transnet had al­ready been sus­pended.

“All com­muter rail ser­vices will shut down, in­clud­ing all Metro­rail and Gau­train ser­vices. All in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic flights are pro­hib­ited, ir­re­spec­tive of risk cat­e­gory of the coun­try of ori­gin.

“Only es­sen­tial air cargo will be al­lowed,” he said.

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