President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on South Africans to shun bigotry against people from countries that have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
In his weekly newsletter to the nation on Monday, Ramaphosa also appealed for compassion for those who have been infected.
He wrote, “We must also not give in to the expressions of bigotry that we have seen in other countries directed at nationals of countries from where the outbreak began or the current epicentre in Europe. This is clearly a virus that affects people of all nationalities.”
‘Assist those in need’
The President added, “Let us lower the wing of compassion to those who are infected, and to those who have returned home from high-risk countries.
“Let us assist those in need and those more vulnerable, instead of shunning them. We will remain faithful to the values of tolerance and respect that define us as a people.”
Ramaphosa’s call comes soon after his briefing to the nation on Sunday evening in which he announced that there are now internal transmissions of the virus.
He said a total of 61 cases have now been confirmed, a situation that “calls for an extraordinary response.”
National state of disaster
The President therefore announced a national state of disaster aimed at limiting contact between those who may be infected and South African citizens.
This includes a travel ban, effective from 18 March, on foreign nationals from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China.
Ramaphosa also advised South Africans against travelling “to or through the European Union, United States, United Kingdom and other identified high-risk countries such as China, Iran and South Korea.”
He said the government will strengthen surveillance, screening and testing at OR Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka International Airports.
Other measures include the prohibition of mass gatherings of more than 100 people, closure of 35 of South Africa’s 72 land ports, and closure of two of the country’s eight sea ports for passenger and crew changes.
The President also announced the establishment of a National Command Council, which he will chair. It will meet three times a week to coordinate the emergency responses.