Government rolls out massive COVID-19 testing drive

Monday, March 30, 2020

Government will in the coming days roll out a large-scale screening, testing, tracing and a medical management programme, to manage the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We are now entering a new phase in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 10 000 field workers will be visiting homes in villages, towns and cities to screen residents for COVID-19 symptoms,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

The President was addressing the nation on Monday for the first time since he declared the National State of Disaster to combat the pandemic. His address comes as South Africa went into a nation-wide lockdown for the first time in the history of its democracy last Thursday at midnight.

“People with symptoms will be referred to local clinics or mobile clinics for testing. People who are infected with Coronavirus, but who have no or moderate symptoms will remain in isolation at home or at a facility provided by government and those with severe symptoms will be transferred to hospitals,” the President said.

“Using mobile technology, an extensive tracing system will be rapidly deployed to trace those who have been in contact with confirmed Coronavirus cases and to monitor the geographical location of new cases in real time,” the President said.

The number of infections continues to grow as there are now 1 326 confirmed Coronavirus cases in South Africa.

“As a nation, we were deeply saddened to learn that, in the last few days, three South Africans have died from the disease. We convey our sympathies and condolences to their families and friends and to their communities,” the President said.

South Africans urged to stay home

President Ramaphosa reiterated his call to South African to stay at home for the next 17 days.

“Leave your home only if you need to get food and essential provisions, collect a social grant, buy medicine or get urgent medical care.

“The only people who can go to work are health workers, security and emergency personnel, those who work to keep our people supplied with food, medicine and basic goods and other providers of essential services as defined in the regulations,” he said.

The President said people who do go out should do everything they can not to get infected and not to infect anyone else.

“Some people may think this disease is something that doesn’t concern them and will never affect them. That it is something they only read about in newspapers or see reports about on TV.

“But it is very real, and it poses a great danger to every one of us and to our society. Let us not make the mistake of thinking this is somebody else’s problem. Every time you violate the regulations the government has issued or try to get around the rules, you are putting yourself and others at risk, and helping the virus to spread,” the President said.

Reaction to Moody’ decision to downgrade SA

The President noted that the pandemic is happening at a time when the country’s economy is under great strain.

Rating agency Moody’s recently downgraded South Africa to a sub-investment grade.

He assured South Africans that this development will not diminish in any way the country’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

“We are pushing ahead to implement the necessary health interventions and economic and social measures to contain the spread of the disease and alleviate its effects on our people.

“Within the constraints of the current crisis, we remain committed to implementing structural economic reforms to address weak economic growth, constrained public finances and struggling state-owned enterprises,” the President said.

Government is working together with its social partners to identify further measures that South Africa can take to limit the damage to the economy.

“Even as our country faces deep and pressing challenges on several fronts, there is no doubt in my mind that we will prevail.

“That is because South Africans have come together like never before to wage this struggle against this virus. Many businesses and individuals are making financial and other contributions to this cause,” the President said.

The President thanked the many businesses and individuals who are making financial and other contributions to this cause.

A nation pulling together

In addition to the financial pledges announced last week, the President welcomed the contribution by the Motsepe Foundation of R1 billion and by Naspers of R1.5 billion to the Coronavirus response.

“We are also extremely grateful to Mr Jack Ma, the founder of the China-based company Alibaba, who has donated vital medical supplies to South Africa and other countries across Africa.”

In a moving tribute, President Ramaphosa thanked the nurses, doctors and other health workers, social workers and frontline government staff, volunteers and NGOs who are leading the fight against the disease.

He thanked the 18 000 security personnel, drawn from the police, defence force, metro police and other entities, that are responsible for ensuring our safety.

“And then there is each of you, the 58 million South African citizens and residents who are standing together as one in confronting this national health emergency. Among us are the men and women who rise at dawn every day, and labour through the night to keep this country going.

“I speak of the farmworker who is helping to keep us supplied with food. I speak of the technician in the power station working shift after shift to keep the lights on. I speak of the caregiver in the old-age home, the childcare home and the hospice, who comes in every day to tend to the most vulnerable of our citizens.

“To the taxi driver, the refuse collector, the supermarket cashier, the hospital cleaner, the petrol attendant and all those essential services workers, you are our unsung heroes, and we salute you,” said the President.  -

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