Nationwide lockdown extended by two weeks

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Cyril Rhamaphosa

The 21-day nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 has been extended by a further two weeks until the end of April.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the extension in a televised address on Thursday evening, as the number of confirmed cases climbed to 1 934 cases.

“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 that have been made.

“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,” said the President.

The President’s address follows a meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council on Wednesday and consultations the President held with premiers and political parties and various social partners during the course of today.

With the severe restrictions on movement and many daily freedoms, the President thanked South Africans for their adherence to regulations and their commitment to saving lives.

“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,” he said.

The extension comes as the number of confirmed cases worldwide surged to 1.5 million - with over 90 000 people losing their lives to the disease.

In a plea to South Africans, the President called on citizens to endure the lockdown a bit longer.

While it is too early to make a definitive analysis of the progression of the disease in South Africa, the President said 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.

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%.

Government ramps up mass screening and testing

Since the 21-day lockdown, the government has refined and intensified its public health strategy to manage the Coronavirus.

In the last week, the government developed its screening and testing methodology in various parts of the country.

Over the next two weeks, the government will roll out its 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.

To ensure that its strategies are effectively coordinated and to ensure they are informed by comprehensive, real-time data, the government has established the COVID-19 Information Centre at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

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,” said the President.

Easter Weekend

With the extension announced on the eve of the Easter Weekend, the President called on South Africans to embrace the spirit of Easter which is a message of hope, 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,” said the President. 

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