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16 Mar 2020

South Africa: national state of disaster declared in response to Coronavirus

On 15 March 2020, South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, declared a national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2002. This declaration will enable government to have an integrated and coordinated disaster management mechanism that will focus on preventing and reducing the outbreak of Covid-19, otherwise known as the Coronavirus. The president announced measures that South Africa will take to prevent and control of the Coronavirus.

In addition to urging solidarity and calm, the president announced the following measures:

Travel and border control

  • From 18 March 2020, foreign nationals from high-risk countries will be banned from entering the country. Travel visas will not be issued and all previously issued visas will be revoked. High-risk countries include:
    • China
    • Germany
    • Iran
    • Italy
    • South Korea
    • Spain
    • the UK
    • the US
  • South African travellers have been advised to refrain from travelling to or through the EU, US, UK and other identified high-risk countries such as China, Iran and South Korea, and those returning from high-risk countries will be subject to testing and 14-day isolation.
  • All travellers who entered South Africa from high-risk countries since mid-February 2020, will be required to present themselves for testing.
  • All foreign nationals who have visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa into South Africa.
  • All spheres of government will be prohibited from non-essential international travel.
  • Visitors from medium-risk countries (these include Hong Kong, Portugal and Singapore) will be subject to high-intensity screening upon entry into South Africa.
  • From 16 March 2020, up to 35 of South Africa’s 53 land entry ports, and two out of eight sea ports, will be closed for crew changes and passenger vessels. Surveillance, screening and testing measures at OR Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka International airports will be strengthened.
  • South Africans are discouraged from using all non-essential domestic travel, particularly by air, rail, taxis and bus.

Social distancing and minimising risk

  • Gatherings of more than 100 people have been banned.
  • Mass celebrations of upcoming national holidays and other large government events will be cancelled.
  • Organisers of small and unavoidable gatherings will need to put in place stringent measures of prevention and control.
  • Schools will be closed from 18 March 2020 until 14 April 2020.
  • Visits to correctional facilities are prohibited for 30 days.

Hygiene control and healthcare

  • South Africans are encouraged to exercise appropriate hygiene measures, including frequent hand washing, covering of the mouth and nose, avoiding contact with those showing flu-like symptoms, and utilising an “elbow greeting” rather than handshaking.
  • Government will be working closely with colleges, universities and other public facilities such as parliament, prisons, police stations and military installations to intensify hygiene control.
  • All businesses and places with large crowds, such as shopping centres and entertainment centres, must take stringent measures to increase hygiene control.
  • Government will take the following measures:
    • the capacity of health centres is to be increased nationally.
    • government is strengthening its surveillance and testing systems.
    • isolation and quarantine sites in each district and metro are being identified.
    • the capacity of existing contact tracing processes is to be increased.
    • in partnership with the private sector, a national tracking, tracing and monitoring system of all people infected with the Coronavirus, and those they have been in contact with, will be set up.
    • a mass communication campaign on good hygiene and effective prevention behaviour will be initiated.


  • A national command centre chaired by the president has been established and will meet three times a week.
  • In order to minimise the effects of the Coronavirus on the South African economy, cabinet is in the process of finalising a comprehensive package of interventions, including various fiscal and other measures, following consultation with business, labour and other relevant institutions.

Clarion call

  • The president made a clarion call for everyone to act swiftly, with purpose and collectively to limit the effects of Coronavirus.
  • The president announced that all institutions of the state will be mobilised to lead the efforts of solidarity and helping the vulnerable.  He enjoined business, academia, trade unions, schools and other organisations to play their part.

For more information on considerations that businesses should be taking in terms of the Coronavirus, please click here.

For more information, please contact ENSafrica at

Covid-19, also known as the Coronavirus, is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020. The disease has since been reported in over 190 countries.

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