- South Africa’s Covid-19 cases have spiked to 150.
- City Press reported that the state plans to announce an R1 billion support package to assist small businesses.
- The aim is to spur manufacturers to produce more of the critical consumer goods required to control the coronavirus.
- SA currently has 116 cases of the virus, of which 14 were locally transmitted.
- Here’s what we know so far about the novel coronavirus behind Covid-19 in South Africa and beyond.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
* This is a developing story, constantly updated throughout.
Last updated: 14:10, 19 March 2020.
The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 has jumped to 150, up from 116 earlier this week.
The department of small business development plans to announce a R1 billion support package to assist small, micro and medium-sized businesses amid coronavirus, City Press reported.
The plan aims to spur manufacturers to produce more of the critical consumer goods required to effectively control the coronavirus, or SARS-Cov-2, and to manage possible supply shortages.
South African consumers have been forming ques at retailers since Sunday when Ramaphosa announced a ban on public gatherings, among other initiatives announced to combat the spread of the virus.
For more information direct from the source, see also:
- the National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD)
- the latest statements issued by the national government
- the Twitter stream of health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize
- the World Health Organization’s Covic-19 outbreak page
Confirmed number of cases in SA: 150
Here’s what we know so far about the novel coronavirus behind Covid-19 in South Africa and beyond.
As of Thursday afternoon, South Africa has an official count of 150 cases
President Cyril Ramaphosa has confirmed that South Africa has 150 cases of Covid-19 in the country – the first confirmed case was reported 13 days ago.
102 of the confirmed cases are related to travel to high-risk countries such as the United States, Italy and the United Kingdom, and 14 cases of local transmission have been reported.
Cases of local transmission have now been reported in Mpumalanga, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.
Government has an R1 billion plan to support small businesses during coronavirus
City Press reported that the department of small business development plans to announce an estimated R1 billion in support packages to assist small, micro and medium-sized businesses on Thursday.
The aim is to spur manufacturers to produce more of the critical consumer goods needed for the effective control of the Covid-19 coronavirus and to manage possible supply shortages.
The department is reportedly also looking at testing drone technology that may help the state identify infections in crowded areas.
Banned: fake news and big boozy parties.
On Wednesday night the government published regulations on the handling of the national state of disaster declared around Covid-19, under broad powers granted by law to deal with disasters.
The rules include strict limits on bars and shebeens. Any establishment that sells alcohol for on-premises consumption must close at 6PM, except on Sundays, when closing time is 1PM.
The same closing times apply to liquor stores.
Those establishments may also host only 50 people at a time, half the maximum number allowed at other gatherings.
Even then, there may be no more than one person per square meter of floor space, which is defined as “adequate space”.
At the same time, spreading fake news on the virus and disease became an offence that could come with six months in jail, for deliberate dissemination with the intent to deceive.
Forbidden gatherings include any event where more than 100 people are present, whether indoors or outdoors.
The regulations are immediately in force.
Patient zero is recovering and ready to be discharged.
South Africa’s first Covid-19 positive person, Patient Zero, has still not received his double negative tests although he is in good health and has made a complete recovery, The Witness reported.
Meanwhile, his doctor, Robyn Reed in Hilton was back at work on Tuesday at her medical practice after her 14-day quarantine.
The four other positive patients, who were on the same skiing trip with patient zero, are in a Durban hospital and have also recovered and are awaiting their double negative tests.
Some countries have asked to repatriate their citizens from South Africa.
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula said certain countries have asked to repatriate their citizens from South Africa, in much the way South Africans were repatriated from Wuhan in China.
Those who do not go home will be kept safe, though, home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi promised.
Mbalula said a travel ban to high-risk countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, will be enforced from March 18.
An exception to the ban will apply for diplomats and returning South Africans.
Travellers from medium-risk countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Portugal will have to apply for new visas, with certification that they are free of the novel coronavirus.
Pick n Pay now offers ‘elderly only’ hour to shoppers older than 65 due to coronavirus.
Pick n Pay says it wants to open all its supermarkets and hypermarkets an hour earlier every Wednesday for customers over 65 to shop safer, amid coronavirus fears.
From 18 March 2020, stores will be open exclusively for customers over the age of 65 years from 07:00 to 08:00.
Customers will be carded at the entrance, and will need to bring a valid ID to enter the store during this time.
Read the full article here.
South Africa’s official guidelines on social distancing: get outdoors, and no domestic staff.
South Africa now has official guidance on social distancing, with activities classified into things to avoid, things to do with caution, and recommended activities.
High up on the “safe to do” list: getting outdoors. Taking a walk, going for a hike, gardening, or playing in the garden are all safe, the government says. (It is not entirely clear how vulnerable the novel coronavirus is to UV light, but being outdoors slows similar diseases, and is generally good for the immune system.)
You can, but should be cautious when, visiting a restaurant or grocery store, the guidelines say.And you should avoid group gatherings, gyms – and “non-essential workers in your house”.
Domestic workers should in any event not be using mass transit, which all South Africans have been advised to avoid.
WATCH | Snaking queues as Joburg shoppers stockpile toilet paper, food.
Some hospitals and shops are struggling to keep up with demand they shouldn’t be facing in the first place.
South African retailers described “unprecedented demand” on Monday for food and other essentials, such as baby formula, as panic-buyers descended on stores, including online marketplaces that offer delivery.
Across major centres there were instances of stores selling out of bread, fruit and vegetables, meat, pasta, and other necessities.
There is, at present, no reason to expect food shortages in South Africa. The novel coronavirus has had no measurable impact on food production yet, and consumption has not increased.
Meanwhile hospitals in Gauteng (and, anecdotal evidence suggests, elsewhere) struggled to cope with the demand of walk-in patients fearing they have Covid-19 and demanding tests.
Authorities urged those who believed they have symptoms caused by the novel coronavirus to first use primary healthcare channels, either local clinics or GPs, for onward referral to the specialised units dealing with SARS-Cov-2.
Here’s how the symptoms differ between Covid-19, the flu, a cold, and allergies.
If you think you have the virus, phone the National Institute for Communicable Disease on 0800 029 999 for directions on where to be tested.
You can also use the official Whatsapp platform for information and advice, by sending “hi” to 060 012 3456.
DStv is making its 24-hour news channels available online to all South Africans – even if you’re not a subscriber.
DStv Now is making the following 24-hour news channels available on its platform: BBC World, CNN, eNCA, SABC News, Newzroom Afrika, and Euronews Now.
This service will also be available to people who don’t have a DStv subscription in South Africa.
DStv Now is the online version of DStv and can me accessed via smartphone, tablet, laptop, computer, smart TV or Xbox.
Extra water and sanitation for informal settlements, rural areas.
The Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation will increase the provision of water and sanitation in high-density public areas, informal settlements and rural areas in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak in South Africa.
On Monday, Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu announced the intervention as a measure to curb the further spread of the virus.
Random screenings for are due at train stations and taxi ranks.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says random screenings will be conducted at train stations and taxi ranks.
Speaking at an inter-ministerial media briefing on Monday, following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of a national state of disaster in light on the Covid-19 outbreak, Mbalula said his department had implemented further preventative measures to stem the spread of the virus.
Mbalula said the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) and trains would undergo sanitisation processes and that public transport users would be urged to practice social distancing.
The measures include the aviation sector, which, he said, was a high-risk one, where airport personnel would be required to wear surgical masks and gloves during the course of their duties.
The Civil Aviation Authority would also conduct inspections and identify high-risk airlines, he said.
Mbalula repeated that a travel ban would be implemented in South Africa from Wednesday.
This means people from high-risk countries are banned from entering South Africa.
No Covid-19 home screenings, warns Netcare as criminals pose as officials.
Netcare has urged members of the public to be vigilant of criminals pretending to be officials under the guise of conducting Covid-19 home screenings.
“Please note that staff members from the Netcare Group, including from Netcare hospitals, Netcare 911 or Medicross medical and dental centres, are NOT doing door-to-door Covid-19 screenings,” Netcare said in a statement on Monday.
This comes after the hospital group received reports that criminals are going to homes in various areas, claiming to be from Netcare or Netcare 911, and saying they are assisting the Department of Health with door-to-door screening for Covid-19 (coronavirus).
South Africans are now barred from a long list of countries, and required to self-isolate on arrival in others.
Various countries have imposed either blanket bans on all foreign travellers, or restricted travel from places with known cases of Covid-19.
The effect is that South Africans (without diplomatic credentials or other special status) are banned from around 15 countries. The list is in constant flux, and expected to grow in coming weeks.
Around a dozen more countries will require South Africans to self-isolate, typically for two weeks, after arrival.
Private hospitals will be required to make facilities available to government.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize said that testing mechanisms have been intensified, and some private hospitals will be required to make their facilities available to government.
Mkhize has also called for restricted hospital visits, as he reiterated the need to take extra precautions to prevent escalation.
Government will take steps to minimise impact of coronavirus on the economy, Ramaphosa promises.
With South Africa’s economy already feeling the pinch of the Covid-19 pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa promised that the government is on the verge of finalising a comprehensive package of interventions to mitigate the expected impact on the economy.
Details are due to be released during the course of the week.
Big universities have suspended classes.
Most major universities across the country have suspended classes with immediate effect, including:
- the University of Cape Town
- the University of KwaZulu-Natal
- the University of Johannesburg
- the University of the Witwatersrand.
Under a national state of emergency, gatherings of more than 100 people are now prohibited in SA, and borders are partially closed.
On Sunday night President Cyril Ramaphosa announced drastic measures to contain the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes Covid-19.
In terms of a national state of emergency, events that include more than 100 people are prohibited.
Citizens from high-risk countries for the virus, such as Italy and China, are no longer allowed to enter South Africa, and those from medium-risk countries such as Portugal and Singapore will be subjected to extended screening.
Border posts are also physically closing. Two sea ports will no longer accept passengers or crews changing over from ships, and two-thirds of SA’s land ports of entry, 35 border posts in all, will close.
Schools will be closed from Wednesday, 18 March, and will remain closed until after the Easter weekend.
No visits will be allowed to prisons for 30 days.
Ramaphosa also urged South Africans to refrain from all travel, including domestically, where possible, and called on businesses and mall operators to do everything necessary to ensure good hygiene.
eThekwini metro police will no longer be using breathalysers at roadblocks for fear of spreading Covid-19
eThekwini metro police will no longer be using breathalysers at roadblocks for fear of spreading coronavirus, according to a social media post by metro police head Steve Middleton.
He said in the post that it “in no way negates the enforcement practice for the infringement of drunken Driving and or driving under the influence, but reduces risk to life and limb we currently face aligned to the spread of the Corona virus”.
As of 11 March, SARS-CoV-2 virus is officially considered a pandemic.
“We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” said World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
A disease is considered pandemic when it spreads around the world – not just to travellers who visit specific countries, but within communities – in a rapid and unexpected fashion.
The declaration is a change in language that seems intended to pressure governments to do more to slow the spread of the disease.
South African insurance companies have started offering Covid-19-specific cover.
South African insurance companies have started offering Covid-19-specific cover, and some are actively advertising this as a benefit to those who have international travel plans.
As a general rule, most travel insurance policies exist to cover unforeseen events, but they exclude coverage for pandemics and epidemics. This means any costs associated with medical expenses, trip cancellation, or disinclination to travel will be at the traveller’s own expense.
Big upcoming gatherings, including around Easter, have now been prohibited.
Under the measures declared as South Africa’s state of national disaster, gatherings of more than 100 people are now prohibited.
Here are some of the biggest upcoming events in South Africa:
- Cape Town Carnival 21 March 2020
- Decorex Cape Town 30th April – 3 May
- Afrikaburn 27 April – 3 May
- South African Cheese Festival 25th April – 27th April
- ABSA Soccer Premiership fixtures March – April 2020
- Super Rugby Fixtures 2020
- The Property Show Cape Town 21-22 March
- DevConf 2020 Cape Town 31 March
You can phone 0800 029 999, day or night, for more information – in theory.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has a toll-free number for the public that deals with Covid-19 questions: 0800 029 999.
With the first case of infection now confirmed, that line will operated 24 hours per day, Mkhize told Parliament.
But on Thursday afternoon, shortly after the announcement, the NICD was apparently struggling with call volumes, with calls going unanswered or being dropped.
If you have a mild case of Covid-19, big medical aid schemes will pay for testing – and you are definitely covered for the most common way it goes bad.
People infected with the virus behind Covid-19, properly known as SARS-CoV-2, can be entirely asymptomatic. Others may have only a mild case, worldwide reports show, much like a cold.
Depending on the nature of your medical aid, and just how comprehensive it is, you may have to pay for both diagnosis and treatment of such a case out of your own pocket, the Council for Medical Schemes said on Thursday.
But if things go bad, you are covered.
Pneumonia is one of the most common complications of Covid-19, the organisation said – and that is a prescribed minimum benefit (PMB) condition in South Africa.
“All medical schemes are required by law to pay for the diagnosis, treatment and care costs for this condition in full, irrespective of plan type or option,” the council said.
“Medical schemes are not allowed to fund PMB conditions from a member’s Medical Savings Account”.
Some of South Africa’s biggest medical aid administrators, Discovery Health, Momentum Health, and Profmed have all indicated their members will be covered for coronavirus testing.
Here are the symptoms to look out for.
The common signs of infection with the novel coronavirus, the South African department of health says, include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
If you experience those or other flu-like symptoms, and have reason to believe you may have been infected (such as recent contact with someone who has travelled to a high-risk country including Italy), the Council for Medical Schemes recommends seeking immediate help at your nearest clinic, hospital, or general practitioner.
But South Africa’s department of health advises phoning the NICD helpline rather than going straight to a medical facility:
Should you feel sick after traveling from counties with coronavirus do not go to a health facility or your general practitioner. To avoid spreading the disease call NICD hotline number 080 002 9999 . You will get advise on what to do #CoronavirusInSA #CoronaVirusUpdate #COVID19
— Department of Health (@HealthZA) March 5, 2020
The World Health Organisation has released guidelines to help businesses prepare their workplaces.
The World Health Organisation has released guidelines to help businesses prepare their workplaces for a Covid-19 outbreak.
Measures include making sure your workplace is clean and hygienic – including objects like phones and keyboards. This means cleaning surfaces like desks and tables and objects (like telephones and keyboards) with disinfectant, regularly. The coronavirus appears to easily spread on surfaces touched by employees and customers.
The WHO also recommends work places install hand sanitiser and soap wash stations.
See also: Here’s how your office should be preparing for coronavirus worst-case according to the WHO
The coronavirus is thought to spread mainly through droplets, so you need to wash your hands properly.
To reduce your chance of infection, regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Hand-washing takes less than half a minute, yet an estimated 97% of people do it wrong.
“It’s recommended that you wash your hands for the amount of time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice – about 20 seconds,” says family physician Dr Sarah Borwein. Twenty seconds has been shown to be the minimum amount of time it takes to really remove germs.”
If you don’t wash long enough, even with soap, it could backfire.
“Chances are that you are not effectively removing all the disease-causing germs that are lurking on them,” Borwein tells Insider.