Cabinet will hold an extraordinary meeting on Sunday to map out South Africa’s plans to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, which has already claimed 17 confirmed infections in the country.
The special meeting will also discuss the economic crisis which has been exacerbated by intermittent and recurring Eskom load shedding stages, which are costing the economy over R4 billion per day.
South Africa slipped into a technical recession last week and there are mounting concerns that the country might be downgraded to junk status by the credit ratings agencies as a result of these economic challenges.
Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu told a media briefing on Thursday that the government was doing all it could to bring the economy back to normality.
“Despite acknowledging the debilitating effects of load shedding, Cabinet remains resolute in fixing the fundamentals, pursue critical areas of growth and drive collaborative solutions with all social partners so that together we set the country on a path to economic growth,” said Mthembu.
Mthembu said Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize reported to Cabinet on Wednesday that there were 13 cases of COVID-19 in South Africa.
He said government was ‘seriously’ concerned about the increasing number of coronavirus cases and has decided to hold a special Cabinet on COVID-19 on Sunday in Pretoria.
Mthembu said Ramaphosa will also update political parties and religious leaders on COVID-19.
“This morning, the Minister of Health confirmed that another four new cases have been identified, bringing the number of COVID-19 cases to 17. He will provide further details during the course of the day,” said Mthembu.
“Cabinet reiterates the call by the World Health Organisation and Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, for all people in South Africa to continually practice preventative measures to stop the transmission and spread of the virus.”
During a briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the outbreak to be “the first pandemic caused by coronavirus”.
As coronavirus continued to spread on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump restricted travel to the United States from more than two dozen European countries.
Trump said the halt on travel from Europe would not include the United Kingdom, and that there would be “exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings.”
The ban also does not apply to all of Europe but to nations in the Schengen zone: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
“We are at a critical time in the fight against the virus,” Trump said.
“We made a life-saving move with early action on China. Now we must take the same action with Europe. We will not delay. I will never hesitate to take any necessary steps to protect the lives, health and safety of the American people. I will always put the well-being of America first.”
Mthembu said that the issue of travel bans in South Africa would be discussed at the special Cabinet meeting on Sunday.
“So that meeting will be very thorough, looking into every area of work, including issues of travel,” said Mthembu.
Mthembu said the SANDF military evacuation from China was proceeding very well as planned, saying the repatriation team and repatriated 151 South Africans were expected back in SA on Friday.
“Cabinet joins President Cyril Ramaphosa in wishing well the repatriation team and the South African Airways crew who departed on Tuesday to the City of Wuhan, Hubei Province in the People’s Republic of China, to repatriate 122 South Africans. The medical team from the Department of Health and the Military Medical Defense Force forms part of the repatriation team. Cabinet has expressed its appreciation to South African Airways for their valuable assistance in this repatriation exercise,” he said.