President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation on Monday night amid increased speculation that South Africa will go into lockdown.
Ramaphosa was supposed to address citizens on Sunday night to give them an update on the government’s efforts to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus.
LIVE | President Ramaphosa will address the nation this evening
But the address was postponed because his meeting with the national command centre continued late into Sunday night.
Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu told journalists at 19:00 on Sunday that the address was not possible because consultations were likely to end well past midnight.
“We think it’s better late than to take corners, in our view… again, we said he was likely to address the nation today. We’re saying definitely now because he has heard the meeting that needs to advise him on these measures he’ll be putting before the nation,” said Mthembu.
The virus hit South Africa just over two weeks ago and spread rapidly.
At the time of publication, there were 274 confirmed cases in seven provinces.
COLUMN | Cyril Ramaphosa: Coronavirus crisis puts SA to the test
Last week, when there were only 61 cases, the president declared a national state of disaster.
In terms of this, a series of regulations took effect, such as the prohibition of gatherings of more than 100 people, halting of alcohol sales after 18:00 on weekdays and Saturdays and after 13:00 on Sundays as well as the imposition of a travel ban to and from high-risk countries.
Earlier on Sunday, the president met with business stakeholders. He also gave smaller political parties an opportunity to give him their views on the outbreak and the government’s efforts to “flatten the curve”.
Several party leaders told News24 the question of a lockdown or state of emergency came up.
“A question of how close the country was to a state of emergency was asked. The president told us many people have been calling for it,” said National Freedom Party leader and MP Ahmed Shaik-Emam.
He said the president briefly told opposition leaders that he was still expected to receive a report from the national command council, which he heads, on the effectiveness of the measures which have already been put in place.
“Amongst ourselves as the opposition, we felt there’s no other route to go. He said they would deliberate on what is best and would call us to give an update. I can tell you now, we will support him,” Shaik-Emam added.
He said many felt the measures were not yielding the desired results and predicted that South Africa would reach 1 000 cases in a few days.
“We’d rather go into lockdown and then deal with the issues of tracing, quarantining and treating those affected. Look at China. It took drastic measures,” he said.
“If the economy gets dented, we can still deal with it. I also worry about the economy but when it comes to choosing the economy and saving the lives of thousands, I choose the people,” Shaik-Emam said.
Rumours that the SA National Defence Force was on standby were also circulating.
Some suggested that Gauteng, which is the epicentre of the virus in the country, should go into lockdown.
Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota also said his party was in favour of a lockdown.
“People must understand the measures suggested are very necessary. Other nations didn’t take it seriously,” said Lekota.
He added that, in his opinion, it was a question of when.
The IFP’s Elphias Buthelezi emphasised the need for South Africans to understand that the government could not fight the outbreak on its own.
He called on families who had domestic workers to consider buying sanitisers and protective gear to give them and their families a fighting chance against the virus.
“If a lockdown is declared by the president, we won’t be against it. We know it’ll be based on the advice of experts who are working on the ground,” said Buthelezi.
One leader, who declined to named, told News24 it was never a question of who was for or against a lockdown, but rather a question of when.
“Some MPs, even on Wednesday, were wondering if it’s too soon. But there must be added pressure now as Ramaphosa’s African counterparts have shut their countries down, with fewer confirmed cases of the outbreak.”
He said he, like many others, felt citizens were not complying with the measures that were put in place.
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