Shut down as Covid-19 spreads

Residents are encouraged to wash and sanitize their hands.

Closed, cancelled, suspended and postponed until further notice — these are notices that the county has been hearing this past week since President Cyril Ramaphosa impose heightened measure to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Herzlia High School was the first school to shut down last week after a parent came into contact with a coronavirus patient who tested positive.

A Grade 9 pupil at the school also tested positive for the virus and was the first child in the province to contract coronavirus.

In a letter sent to parents, staff members and pupils on Friday last week, the school’s executive director, Andries van Renssen, confirmed the results and stated that all United Herzlia campuses including the high school, middle school, three primary schools and three pre-primary schools would remain closed until after the holidays.

“We have taken some advice from a doctor on appropriate responses with our children and the children who may have had secondary contact. The school is acting responsibly and has already closed, while teachers are engaged in online learning. The school and communal bodies are working together to try and contain the spread as best as possible,” he said.

At the time of Mr Ramaphosa’s televised address to the nation, on Sunday, the country had 61 confirmed cases of people infected with the virus.

That number was expected to rise in the coming days and weeks, Mr Ramaphosa said initially, it had been people who had travelled out of the country, especially from Italy, who had tested positive, he said.

“It is concerning that we are now dealing with internal transmission of the virus.”

The World Health Organisation has declared the Covid-19 outbreak a global pandemic. More than 153 000 people have tested positive for what it is commonly referred to as the coronavirus in 146 countries with more than 5 700 deaths.

The president said an “extraordinary response” was needed to limit the impact of the virus on South African society and the country’s economy, the president said. These measures include:

Prohibiting gatherings of more than 100 people.

Banning foreign nationals from high-risk countries, such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, America, the UK, and China, from visiting South Africa. Those who entered the country from mid-February must present themselves for testing.

Cancelling visas to visitors from those countries and revoking those already granted.

Discouraging all non-essential domestic travel, particularly by air, rail, taxis and bus.

Cancelling mass celebrations of upcoming national days such as Human Rights Day and other large government events.

Closing 35 of the country’s 72 land ports and two of the eight sea ports.

Prohibiting all non-essential travel for all spheres of government outside of the country.

Closing schools from Wednesday March 18 until after the Easter Weekend. To compensate, the mid-year school holidays will be shortened by a week.

Suspending visits to all correctional centres for 30 days.

Mr Ramaphosa said countries that had heeded the call to implement radical measures had fared much better than those that had not.

Businesses, including mining, retail, banking, farming, should intensify hygiene control as should malls, entertainment venues and other places drawing large numbers of people.

People should wash their hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitisers for at least 20 seconds; cover their noses and mouths when coughing and sneezing with tissues or flexed elbow; and avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

A national command council, chaired by the president, would meet three times a week, to coordinate all aspects of the emergency response.

Covid-19 would have a significant and potentially lasting impact on the country’s economy, Mr Ramaphosa warned.

“Cabinet is therefore in the process of finalising a comprehensive package of interventions to mitigate the expected impact of Covid-19 on our economy.

“This package, will consist of various fiscal and other measures, and it will be concluded following consultation with business, labour and other relevant institutions. It is clear that this disease will be extremely disruptive.”

Mr Ramaphosa said fear and ignorance were perhaps the greatest dangers to the country at this time.

“We should stop spreading fake and unverified news and create further apprehension and alarm.

“While we are facing a medical emergency far graver than we have experienced in recent times, we are not helpless. We have the knowledge, we have the expertise among us, we have the means and the resources to fight this disease.”

The country needed to be united in its response to the threat, and everyone should play their part, the president said.

“Although we may be limiting physical contact… This epidemic has the potential to bring us closer together. We are responding as a united nation to a common threat. This national emergency demands that we cooperate that we collaborate and that we take common action.”

Cape Town mayor Dan Plato announced on Monday that all portfolio, sub-council, and ward committee meetings would be cancelled until further notice.

“We will continue to assess the situation and update this instruction as needed. We will be engaging with the speaker, Dirk Smit, and all political parties about how to deal with important matters such as the City’s budget, which is set to be tabled at the council meeting later this month.”

Mr Plato said the City would need to “adjust” its approach to public participation processes in the immediate future, as it would not be possible to hold public meetings.

Residents should email or hand in written submissions on matters requiring public participation, he said. And the public should, in general, rely on email, the phone or the City’s website for council matters instead of trying to do things in person.

Mr Plato said there would also be an immediate travel ban — both local and international – for all City staff and councillors.

The mayor said he had appointed a coronavirus task team that would meet daily to assess the situation and advise of any additional measures that needed to be taken.

Scores of City facilities were closed from yesterday, Wednesday March 18, to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Swimming pools, camping sites, museums, art centres, community halls and civics centres, recreational hubs, stadiums, spray parks, resorts, braai and picnic spots, sports fields and nature reserves will all close, according to a statement by Mr Plato on Tuesday.

Furthermore, visits by the City’s mobile office have been suspended until further notice.

Library operating hours (including mobile services) will be reduced incrementally and these facilities will provide only basic services, namely, taking out and returning reading material.

The number of persons allowed into the library will be controlled.

Cemeteries will remain open, but those making bookings will be advised to be mindful of the number of persons at the graveside during burial and they will be asked to stick to their allotted times.

“The recreation and parks department is working to keep gravesites as far apart as possible to limit contact between mourners during burials,” the statement said.

Offices that provide City services like cash offices, driving licence testing centres and housing and planning offices will remain open for now.

All events at the City’s nature reserves have been cancelled. The mayor’s statement said staff were working on refunding those affected.

The City is encouraging the public to use its online services for things like car licences and account payments instead of visiting customers centres for over the counter transactions.