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.