Health, Africa, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

South Africa orders schools closed as COVID-19 spreads

President also suspends visits by family members of prisoners to all correctional facilities across the country

Hassan Isilow  | 16.03.2020 - Update : 16.03.2020
South Africa orders schools closed as COVID-19 spreads


South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday ordered the closure of schools and suspended visits by family members of prisoners to all correctional facilities across the country as the deadly novel coronavirus spread in Africa’s most advanced economy.

"Gatherings of more than 100 people will be prohibited. Mass celebrations of upcoming national days such as Human Rights Day and other large government events will be cancelled," Ramaphosa said in a statement.

He added that schools will be closed from Wednesday and will remain shut until after Easter weekend.

At least 61 people in the country have tested positive for virus and authorities say the numbers could rise in the coming days.

Ramaphosa said the government is also aware of a student who has tested positive for the coronavirus at Wits University in Johannesburg.

“The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation is consulting with Vice Chancellors of universities and colleges across the country and will soon be announcing measures in this regard,” the statement said, adding those who have been in contact with the student will be quarantined.

Changes in behavior

Ramaphosa also called for changes in behavior where greeting by hand is minimized to avoid physical contact.

He encouraged the elbow greeting rather than handshakes.

“Because of the severity of this virus and its rapid spreading, the government will make funding available to capacitate the sectors dealing with the national response to the coronavirus outbreak,” he added.

Although there are many cases in South Africa of the virus, no deaths have been reported so far.

After emerging in Wuhan, China last December, the virus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 135 countries and territories.

The global death toll is now more than 5,300, with more than 142,000 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization, which has declared the outbreak a “global pandemic."

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