Issue 421 | 1 April 2020
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On Sunday, 29 March 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the Ranch Resort a green zone after everyone, who had been placed under quarantine there, had tested negative for Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The group of 112 citizens was placed under quarantine at the Ranch Resort in Polokwane from 14 March 2020 after they were repatriated from Wuhan in the Hubei Province of the People’s Republic of China, following the outbreak of COVID-19.

“We are now able to declare the Ranch a green zone. We had placed our students, the cabin crew of the flight that fetched them, as well as our military medical officers and the crew that flew them here, together with the staff who work here, and that meant that this place was declared a red zone.

“Now we’ve gone past the 14 days of quarantine and everybody who is in this facility has been tested, and has been found to be negative of Coronavirus. With that, Dr Zweli Mkhize has said we are now able to declare this is now a green zone, in that nobody in this facility has contracted Coronavirus,” President Ramaphosa said before entering the ranch.

The President added that government took good precautions to put students, the crew and everybody else who came from China under quarantine to make sure that the virus was not imported into the country.

“This is now a green zone and we can go in. We are now going to meet our students and everybody else who is in here in great safety because there is no Coronavirus in here,” said the President.

– Source:
On Thursday, 26 March 2020, with just hours to go until South Africa entered a 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Cyril Ramaphosa, sent the men and women in uniform to serve, guide and lead the way.
In a seminal moment for South Africa, the President delivered a moving address to both the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), respectively.

Disrupting tradition and adhering to government's regulations of only a 100 people per gathering to contain the virus, only a 100 officers and soldiers each were deployed for the President's send-off message.

Addressing the men and women in blue, on a rainy Thursday evening, at the SAPS College in Tshwane, the President urged the police to execute their mission of saving lives with humility and respect.

“Officers, I send you off now to go and be among our people. I send you to conduct service among our people and shower our people with guidance, advice and leadership right now in the Republic of South Africa.

“Let us make sure that we as the police service do not do anything that will violate the rights of our people by mistake or unintentionally. Let us go and do right by the people of South Africa and save their lives. This is the hour. This is the moment that you were trained for,” said the President.

Following the address to the police, the President proceeded to the SANDF Doornkop Army Base in Johannesburg where he further called on the armed forces to provide assurance to South Africans.

“Your mission is to save lives. We are not the only country waging war against an invisible enemy, the Coronavirus. In you, our people have a defence mechanism.

“Tonight, you begin the most important calling of your mission, to save the lives of South Africans,” said the Commander in Chief.

The President emphasised that the deployment was not one of force, but rather for the protection of citizens.

Coinciding with the President’s address, was the announcement of the rise in confirmed Coronavirus cases to 927, an increase of 218 cases from the previous day.

From midnight on Thursday, the SAPS and the SANDF are playing an important role in supporting and enforcing the nation’s compliance with the restriction of movement of people under the National State of Disaster and lockdown.

Earlier the week, the President took an unprecedented step where he announced the escalation of measures to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus following deliberations with the National Command Council.

In an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, and in consideration of the growing numbers of people contracting the virus, the President declared a national lockdown to be enforced for 21 days beginning on Thursday, 26 March 2020, at midnight.

The nation-wide lockdown will be enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act wherein the majority of the population are compelled to stay at home.

By calling on citizens to stay at home and shutting down population movement, South Africa, like many countries across the globe, is buying time and reducing the pressure on health systems.

World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, warned, however, that a lockdown as a measure on its own, would not extinguish epidemics.

Instead, the WHO urged countries to use the lockdown as a second window of opportunity to trace affected patients, scale up testing, isolate and quarantine patients and prevent a resurgence of the virus.

On Wednesday, 25 March 2020, the WHO confirmed 416 686 cases around the world, affecting 196 countries with 18 589 deaths recorded globally.

– Source:
In his capacity as the African Union (AU) Chair, President Cyril Ramaphosa, on Thursday, 26 March 2020, hosted a teleconference with the members of the AU Bureau to coordinate the continent’s approach to the Coronavirus pandemic.
“The consultation is aimed at developing a common response of the AU on containing the spread of the Coronavirus and mitigating its impact on the people and economies of Africa,” said The Presidency.

President Ramaphosa, on behalf of South Africa, is the Chair of the Bureau, which comprises the Presidents of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Félix Tshisekedi; Republic of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keit; Republic of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta; and Arab Republic of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; including the AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat.

The meeting also looked at collaboration with the United Nations Secretary in his efforts to address the pandemic, globally.

“AU organs, partners and philanthropists are key players to the AU and their role will form part of the discussions, with the objective of optimising their resources as part of a wider campaign to mobilise resources, especially for poor countries with infrastructural challenges,” said The Presidency.

On the same day, President Ramaphosa participated in a G20 leaders virtual meeting from Pretoria.

– Source:
"There is no use fighting over who caused it or where it came from," President Cyril Ramaphosa said after meetings with African Union (AU) and G-20 member states on Thursday, 26 March 2020.
In an impromptu media briefing, President Ramaphosa said it was no use pointing fingers over who caused the pandemic, adding the world was in a war situation.

"When you are in a war, it does not pay any benefit to start fighting among yourselves and shooting your own soldiers. We have got to unite to confront this enemy."

He said the Government wanted to share research information with the rest of the world, adding this view was being articulated and there was no dissent even from countries which had placed blame on each other for spreading the virus.

President Ramaphosa said he was confident, that from a G-20 point of view, the world was facing a common enemy.

He added he had articulated Africa's position that it needed stimulus support from developed countries, a move supported by France, Germany, Canada and Russia.

President Ramaphosa also mentioned G-20 members had pledged their commitment to aiding developing countries with debt relief from the International Monetary Fund by halting interest payments.

His day did not end there as he had to have meetings with the African Union Bureau heads of state.

"We had a wonderful session which I convened to enable the continent to have a clear position on dealing with COVID-19. We found that the number that are affected on the continent rising every day. Their numbers have not reached the level of which South Africa is in."

– Source:
Over 1000 South Africans are stranded in various countries around the world, International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, said on Tuesday, 31 March 2020.
“The most recent data that we have suggests that we may have 1 471 South Africans stranded across the world.  Of this number, 723 are students, 204 people who are workers, 224 tourists, 320 who haven’t disclosed. I cannot say that these numbers are 100 % accurate as it is based on people who have approached us for assistance through our missions and consular services,” said the Minister.

The Minister made these remarks at a briefing held at the Government Communication and Information System in Pretoria.

The Minister’s comments came as South Africa entered the fifth day of a 21-day nationwide lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

In response to the pandemic, South African Airways (SAA) has suspended all domestic, regional and international flights.

The lockdown, which got underway at midnight on Thursday, 26 March 2020, is aimed at curbing the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) which to date, has seen South Africa record over 1000 positive cases

As a result of the lockdown, which is being enforced not only in South Africa but in other parts of the world, many travellers across the world are finding themselves stranded in foreign countries, including South Africans.

“We empathise with their plight and are doing whatever is within our means to assist them to be safe, as comfortable as possible and to travel back to South Africa,” said the Minister.

She further added that there might be more people in need of assistance that the department did not yet know about.

The Minister urged those who are not able to make contact with missions abroad to contact the department’s 24-hour Command Centre on +27 12 351 1754 and +27 12 351 1756. Emails may be sent to: and

Assistance provided

In terms of the assistance the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) is providing to stranded South Africans, Minister Pandor has directed that priority be given to those who are stranded at airports, those who are running out of accommodation, the elderly and the sick.

In addition, South African missions abroad will continue to render consular services, including negotiating with the governments where there are lockdowns in order to facilitate the movement of stranded South Africans.

“Given the difficulties associated with travel restrictions we appeal to those who can afford to return to do so at their own cost. Some have started organising themselves into groups and have approached the department to ensure their safe passage home. Others are students whose accommodation in crowded dormitories forced them to come home,” she said.

In addition, some South Africans have explored options such as arranging private charter flights back to South Africa. This can be done in cooperation with their travel insurance companies, their sponsors or in groups with other citizens in the same country.

“In such cases, we have requested our missions to assist with obtaining flight clearances for chartered flights in the host countries and to get permission to depart on such chartered flight.”

Meanwhile, some citizens have indicated that they are able to bring themselves home. In such cases, DIRCO will facilitate with logistics and consular services to enable them to travel back safely. In the same breath, DIRCO will be liaising with families and friends in South Africa to contribute to the payment for accommodation for those who cannot depart.

Such funds can be transferred by Western Union or MoneyGram, commercial banks or via international EFT directly to the account of the institutions.

“For the rest of the South Africans who might not be stranded or distressed, we have advised that they remain where they are to reduce movement until the end of the lockdown. We also make a special appeal that they observe all the rules and regulations put in place by the authorities of the countries where they are in, as these are meant to curb the spread of this COVID-19 virus”, she said.

Transport arrangements

Also speaking at the same briefing, Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula, emphasised that all international and domestic passenger flights were still prohibited under the 21-day national lockdown.

He also detailed arrangements on the evacuation of foreign nationals from South Africa.

Minister Mbalula said the repatriation of foreign nationals would be made under the following regulations:
  • foreign countries must charter their aircraft to South Africa without passengers except with the crew.
  • the crew is not allowed to disembark.
Meanwhile, the Minister said the evacuation of South African citizens was allowed provided that:
  • he or she has a fully paid return flight ticket
  • on arrival, they will be subjected to mandatory quarantine for a period of up to 21 days
  • the crew will be allowed to disembark subject to mandatory quarantine laws as may be applicable.
The following technical flights are allowed:
  • medical evacuation flights
  • aircraft in a state of emergency
  • overflights
  • technical landings for refuelling
  • aircraft operations related to humanitarian aid, relief flights and other safety related operations
Minister Mbalula said medical evacuation flights should not carry passengers except patients and crew that will upon landing be subjected to mandatory quarantine laws as may be applicable.

Technical landing flights are allowed on condition that no passenger may disembark.

In addition, the following airports should have standby operational staff who will receive aircraft that are in distress:
  • Port Elizabeth
  • Bram Fischer
  • Upington
  • Polokwane
  • Kruger in Mpumalanga.
Minister Mbalula added that air transportation of all cargo – essential and non-essential – was permitted.

Disembarkation of flight cargo crew is permitted on condition that it will be subjected to quarantine laws applicable in South Africa.

Minister Pandor has tasked missions to also determine from host countries, whether authorities can offer any assistance to foreigners stranded in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes for example, the issuing/extension of visas.

“I must take this opportunity to thank all the countries that have assisted in this regard not with only consular services but also have donated both financially as well as with other resources necessary to fight the spread of this virus.”

Meanwhile, the Consular Services Unit is monitoring calls of stranded South Africans daily to ensure that they are informed all the time.

– Source:
A number of existing drugs are being re-purposed and tested in South Africa for their efficiency in the potential treatment for the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
“Preliminary work on the development of vaccines has started with University of Cape Town, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Biovac. Progress is expected in over 18 months,” said the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande.

Addressing a media briefing on Tuesday, 24 March 2020, in Tshwane, the Minister said current trials happening internationally coordinated by the World Health Organisation were being monitored.

“The South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA) A is currently engaging with other sources of data and modelling groups, refining their assumptions with a view to produce an updated model of the spread of the epidemic over time by Friday,” Minister Nzimande said.

The Department of Science and Innovation has already availed R12 million and will redirect an additional R30 million.

Urgent need to manufacture COVID-19 tests locally in South Africa

“It has become urgent to locally manufacture reagents for testing kits. These are currently being imported and the lockdown may threaten access to supply,” the Minister said.

The Department of Science and Technology has negotiated the repurposing of various facilities and labs to respond to the outbreak.

The entities in line to assist include Biovac, Centre of Excellence in TB research, Centre of Proteomic and Genomic Research and Afrigen Bio.

– Source:
South Africa will participate in the Public Health Emergency Solidarity Trial, which has been initiated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to conduct a clinical trial to find an effective COVID-19 treatment.
“The WHO has convened an independent group of experts to review evidence from laboratory, animal and clinical studies to prioritise treatments for inclusion in the trial,” Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, said on Saturday, 28 March 2020.

The group has identified the following treatment options for inclusion in the trial:
  • Remdesivir: a drug which was previous used in an Ebola trial
  • Lopinavir/ritonavir: a licensed treatment for HIV and AIDS
  • Lopinavir/ritonavir with interferon beta-1a: used for Multiple Sclerosis
  • Chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine: drugs used to treat malaria and rheumatology conditions, respectively. 
All participating countries will adhere to the same methodology in order to facilitate the worldwide comparison of unproven treatments.

South Africa’s research team is led by Professors Helen Rees and Jeremy Nel, 30 senior working academics, researchers and clinicians from eight medical schools in the country.

The medical schools are: Wits University, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, University of Pretoria, University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, Nelson Mandela University, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Free State and the SA Military Health Service.

“Other countries that have already confirmed their participation in the trial are Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand,” said the Minister.

He said the research team would undertake the study in 14 leading hospitals across the country.

– Source:
Sport, Arts and Culture Minister, Nathi Mthethwa, has announced measures for a relief fund of R150 million to soften the economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
South Africa is currently in the midst of a 21-day lockdown, which concludes on 16 April 2020.

The money will go towards assisting artists, athletes, technical personnel and the core ecosystem that supports them.

The criteria for accessing this support, the identification of beneficiaries and the mechanism through which the relief fund will be managed have been finalised in consultation with South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee and Cultural and Creative Industries Federation of South Africa for the different sectors.

Athletes who were confirmed to participate at events that have now been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19, and whose income is generated solely through specific sporting events, will be eligible for relief.

Those eligible will need to provide proof that their events have been cancelled and their taxes must be in order.

Coaches and technical support personnel must work with athletes whose sporting events have been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19, and make their earnings solely from these events. They too must have their tax matters in order.

Athletes on the Operation Excellence Programme are potential medalists earmarked for international multi-coded events such as the Olympics, Paralympics, Commonwealth Games etc., and the above conditions and criteria are applicable to them as well.

For sports, relief will only be availed to athletes, coaches or technical support personnel after the date on which the cancelled or postponed event would have been held.

The department reserves the right to determine the quantum of relief based on the availability of resources.

– Source: Department of Sports, Arts and Culture
The national Department of Health's novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) WhatsApp helpline is now available in five of South Africa's official languages – English, Sotho, Zulu, Xhosa and Afrikaans.
Initially, the service was only able to respond to English queries, but this changed when updates were made to accommodate the additional languages so that it is available in five of the country's most-spoken languages.

This is part of the department's efforts to make critical information about the novel Coronavirus outbreak available in various languages.

Anyone in South Africa can join the COVID-19 Connect conversation by sending the word "Hi" to +27 600 123 456 on WhatsApp.

– Source:


Every website with a domain name that ends in .za – from government portals to private blogs – must now link to the Government's main COVID-19 page on its front page.

And while the novel Coronavirus state of disaster is in place, you can't change cellphone network providers without losing your phone number.

That is apparently to hinder scammers while the country focusses on fighting the disease.

As of Thursday, 26 March 2020, every website with a domain name that ends in .za – including every company website that uses the suffix, every organisation in, and every academic institution in – must link to the South African Government’s COVID-19 portal at

That link must be "visible", and must be on the front page of the website, according to regulations gazetted by Communications Minister, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

The site, formally known as the COVID-19 South African Online Portal, contains information about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease it causes, plus statistics on its spread in South Africa and related government press releases.

According to the ZA Domain Name Authority, the body that oversees the assignment of names within the .za space, there are currently 1.3 million registered names that end in .za, though not all of those have active associated websites.

The requirement for a link to the website is part of interventions that also say that broadcasters must spread "public information related to the national effort to combat the spread of COVID-19 in all local languages, including sign language".

If you change network service providers now, your phone number won't go with you.

The new regulations also suspend number portability, the process that allows a cellphone number to be transferred between operators. That means that changing from one cellphone network service provider to another will not be possible without being issued a new telephone number, for as long as the COVID-19 State of Disaster is in place.

The minister said her department did not want scammers to take advantage of South Africans during a time of disaster.

Porting a number from one network to another is a vital step in several types of fraud, including stealing Internet banking credentials and soliciting payments from the friends of victims.

– Source:

As South Africans began the first day of the national 21-day lockdown, the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) said it was stepping up its efforts to fight the spread of Coronavirus.
NHLS Chief Executive Officer, Dr Kamy Chetty, said the organisation had adequate testing capacity and equipment to meet the demand.

“The NHLS is pursuing various sources of supplies to obtain polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based test kits and has a commitment from suppliers that South Africa will be a priority,” Chetty said.

Currently, the NHLS has six laboratories performing COVID-19 related tests. This number will increase to nine by April 2020.

In addition, the NHLS has 18 state-of-the-art Cobas 6 800 and 8 800 machines that will dramatically improve the volumes of tests that can be conducted.

Coronavirus test kit for GeneXpert

Chetty said the NHLS also had over 180 GeneXpert analysers, which would be available in all provinces for testing COVID-19 by April 2020.

The Coronavirus test kit for the GeneXpert analyser, was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration recently. The test kit can deliver a COVID-19 diagnosis in 45 minutes.

“The advantage, according to the supplier, is that tests can be processed in 45 minutes, and the smaller machines can be placed in mobile vehicles, which makes it ideal for community testing. It’s a pity that this new test kit was not available sooner, as it would have made a huge difference to how testing gets done. We are nevertheless pleased that it will be ready shortly,” Chetty said.

Laboratories conducting tests

The six laboratories that are currently conducting tests are the NHLS National Institute for Communicable Diseases and Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital, which are both located in Gauteng; Groote Schuur and Tygerberg Hospitals in the Western Cape; Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal; and Universitas Hospital in the Free State.

“Tshwane Academic Hospital in Gauteng, Port Elizabeth Provincial and Nelson Mandela Academic Hospitals, both in Eastern Cape, will start testing shortly,” Chetty said.

Mobile laboratories

Chetty said the NHLS had deployed six mobile laboratories to collect samples for testing.

The mobile laboratories that have been deployed as follows:
  • one in the Western Cape
  • two in the Free State
  • one in Kwazulu-Natal
  • two in Gauteng.
Meanwhile, 20 more mobile vehicles have also been procured and will be deployed in April.

“With all the five sites functional, the NHLS has the capacity to process 5 000 samples in 24 hours.

This number will increase to 15 000 in 24 hours in April.

At the end of April, the NHLS will be able to process approximately 36 000 test in 24 hours,” Chetty said

– Source:
The partnership between business and government provides a hotline to doctors in all official languages, 24/7, anywhere, on any device, for free – no data or airtime required.
Momentum has committed additional resources to help the Government in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

This follows recent financial commitment to support the Health Department and South Africans in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. The service will not only allow citizens access to quality advice when they need it, but it also prevents the sick and potentially affected South Africans from transmitting the virus in health facilities around the country.

Furthermore, it also allows practitioners who may be infected, to remain in the health system and assist patients from a safe distance at a time where they are needed the most.

The support is in the form of HelloDoctor, Momentum’s telehealth capability that provides access for its clients to doctors anytime (24/7), on any phone, in all official languages. This service is available to all South Africans at no charge nationally from Thursday, 26 March 2020.

Damian McHugh, Health Executive at Momentum Health Solutions, says, “This is the time for business to show their solidarity and ability to come together with government in providing more health to more South Africans for less, especially at a time where the country needs it the most.”

Without the need for airtime or data, South Africans have access to a risk assessment tool, which will trigger a callback from a doctor if need be who will respond personally with telephonic advice.

Any South African can access the service by simply dialling *120*394# on their mobile phone and follow the menus. The doctor will call back and provide the right advice required based on given symptoms and conditions at no cost.

McHugh further expresses, “We cannot afford the skills of our health practitioners to be lost during this critical time in our country. This partnership will help South Africans to access healthcare professionals during self-isolation when they are asked to stay at home and during a probable lockdown.”

“Our country requires business to partner with government to limit the effect of this pandemic in South Africa.

“Our President and the Health Ministry have announced many initiatives to assist South Africa, and we all need to come together to limit the devasting effects we are seeing in the rest of the world."

- Source: Momentum /
A group of 17 lions and tigers rescued from circuses in Guatemala made it to South Africa before the lockdown, in what the rescue organisation Animal Defenders says was “one of the luckiest breaks ever”.
The cats landed in South Africa nine weeks ago, which seems like a long time, but the Coronavirus was already hitting countries around the world and the animals could have been stranded at an airport in containers anywhere for an unknown amount of time. Plus, it was a very costly operation.

“We were under immense pressure from Guatemala officials to get them out of the country fast,” AD International said on Twitter. “Flights were blocked due to transit restrictions in US and Europe; costs escalated. If we had a few weeks more to get a cheaper flight and shorter route, we would probably have taken it.

The animals were taken to the ADI sanctuary in the Free State.

“Today, tigers Itza, Max, Stripes, Sombra, Lupe, Bimbi, Jade, Luna, Sun, Moon, Sasha and Kumal, and lions Tomas, Kimba, Sasha, Tarzan and Tanya enjoy chasing through the long grass, sunning on platforms and soaking in their pools at the ADI sanctuary.”

– Source:
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