South African leader warns virus outbreak to get worse

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020 00:00 |
Support staff at Helen Joseph Hospital protest lack of personal protective equipment in Johannesburg, yesterday. The protest took place after more than five nurses at thehospital tested positive for the virus. Photo/AFP

Johannesburg, Monday

The president of South Africa has warned that the country’s coronavirus outbreak is going to get much worse, while announcing that lockdown measures are to be eased.

Cyril Ramaphosa said a third of the country’s more than 22,000 cases had been recorded in the last week.

Despite that, the president said the current lockdown could not be sustained indefinitely. He announced that, from  June 1, more restrictions would be lifted.

Ramaphosa was speaking after a mining company in South Africa said 164 workers at a gold mine near Johannesburg had tested positive for coronavirus. The Mponeng mine is the deepest gold mine in the world.

Most of those who tested positive were not showing any symptoms. They have all been put into isolation, according to the mine’s owners, AngloGold Ashanti.

In bid to ease restrictions in South Africa, an overnight curfew will no longer be in place, more businesses will be allowed to open and schools will re-start, the president said.

A controversial ban on alcohol will also end, with limited sales allowed for home consumption only and “only under strict conditions on specified days and for limited hours”, the president said. But Ramaphosa said the ban on the sale of cigarettes will remain “due to the health risks associated with smoking”.

He also announced there would be a phased re-opening of schools because “we are concerned about the growth and development of our children and that an entire generation of learners should not be permanently disadvantaged by the pandemic”.

But he added that “no parent will be forced to send children to school if they are worried about safety at school”. The president has been under pressure to ease lockdown measures to restart the economy.

However, he warned the public that the worst is still ahead. “We should expect that these numbers will rise even further and even faster,” he said. “The coronavirus pandemic in South Africa is going to get much worse before it gets better,” he added.

At least 40,000 people could die with coronavirus in South Africa by the end of the year, scientists warned last week.

Meanwhile, teachers in the country want the planned reopening of schools on  June  1 halted, Independent Online news website reports.

Educators Union of SA (Eusa) general secretary Siphiwe Mpungose is quoted as saying that they will file a court application on Monday against the Department of Basic Education (DBE).

The DBE had announced that Grade 7 and Grade 12 will reopen school on 1 June.

School premises are already being cleaned and sanitised ahead of the planned reopening. Teachers say the ministry’s position that protective gear will be issued cannot be trusted and the rates of infections are still high. – AFP

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