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Ramaphosa Extends National State of Disaster, Declares Five Days Of Mourning For COVID-19 Victims

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SOUTH Africa’s state of national disaster will stay in place until at least December 15, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday during a live address as he unveiled cautious plans to lift restrictions and prevent rising COVID-19 infections.

“We need to take measures to contain the rise in infections. In response to the rising infections, we are implementing the resurgence plan that has been developed together with the surge team deployed to South Africa by the World Health Organisation,” said Ramaphosa.

The president said he was ‘getting concerned’, and ‘alarmed’ by what he has seen on social media, and even of television, where South Africans were holding big parties, gatherings and social events as though the virus does not exist.

To date, South Africa has recorded 742,394 coronavirus cases.

Of these people, over 92% have recovered.

But the greatest blow the country has suffered since the start of this pandemic were the confirmed deaths of 20,011 people due to COVID-19, said Ramaphosa.

The president said he was concerned by the rising infections in some hotspots around the country, particularly in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape and the Free State.

He said the Eastern Cape, in particular, has shown worrying signs of resurgence in the past few weeks. 

He said the Eastern Cape should be a wake-up call to all South Africans, “that we cannot relax and we cannot be complacent”.

“In the last week, the number of new cases in the province was 50% higher than the week before and the total number of new cases in the last 14 days was around 145% higher than the previous 14 days,” said Ramaphosa.

The president said these increases were being driven by massive spikes in the Nelson Mandela Metro and the Sarah Baartman District in particular.

“The evidence suggests that the increases in the Eastern Cape could have been triggered by outbreaks in institutions of higher learning such as universities, schools and attendance by people at large gatherings,” said Ramaphosa, adding that combined with poor adherence to social distancing, mask wearing and other poor hygiene measures, the environment for rising infections is set.

“With many people moving between the Eastern Cape and other provinces – particularly the Western Cape – it is a matter of time before this surge spreads to other parts of the country. We therefore need to take measures to contain the rise in infections.”
Government, said Ramaphosa, is closely monitoring developments in these areas that were experiencing higher than average rates of new infections.

“The areas where we are experiencing higher than average rates of new infections include Lejweleputswa and Mangaung in the Free State, Frances Baard and Pixley ka Seme in the Northern Cape, and the Garden Route and Cape Town metro in the Western Cape,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa also announced that South Africa will open up international travel to all countries subject to the necessary health protocols and the presentation of a negative COVID-19 certificate.

He added that government was amending the alert Level 1 regulations to restore the normal trading hours for the sale of alcohol at retail outlets.

Cabinet, Ramaphosa announced, has decided that from the 25th to 29th of November, the nation should embark on five days of mourning for the victims of COVID-19 and gender-based violence.

“We will let the national flag fly at half-mast throughout the country from 6am to 6pm from Wednesday 25 November to Sunday 29 November,” he said.

“We call upon all South Africans to wear a black armband or other signs of mourning to signify our respect for those who have departed. We call upon all South Africans to demonstrate their solidarity and do this in remembrance of our countrymen and women, in recognition of the grief that we share as a nation, and as an affirmation of our determination to overcome this devastating disease.”

The Democratic Alliance lambasted Ramaphosa for extending the state of national disaster, saying it has been disastrous, fuelling not just a feeding frenzy of corruption, but also illegal land invasions and lawlessness.

“It is incomprehensible that the state of disaster has been extended by yet another month. Government cannot keep managing South Africa around a single risk when our nation is so imperiled by far greater risks, such as poverty, hunger and unemployment. We reject with contempt the veiled threat of a return to higher levels of lockdown,” said party leader John Steenhuisen.

“Stop managing South Africa around a single risk, Mr President. Stop the fear-mongering, stop the economy-bashing, and end the state of disaster.”


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