South Africa will participate in the Public Health Emergency Solidarity Trial, which has been initiated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to conduct a clinical trial to find an effective COVID-19 treatment.
“The WHO has convened an independent group of experts to review evidence from laboratory, animal and clinical studies to prioritise treatments for inclusion in the trial,” Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, said on Saturday, 28 March 2020.
The group has identified the following treatment options for inclusion in the trial:
- Remdesivir: a drug which was previous used in an Ebola trial
- Lopinavir/ritonavir: a licensed treatment for HIV and AIDS
- Lopinavir/ritonavir with interferon beta-1a: used for Multiple Sclerosis
- Chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine: drugs used to treat malaria and rheumatology conditions, respectively.
All participating countries will adhere to the same methodology in order to facilitate the worldwide comparison of unproven treatments.
South Africa’s research team is led by Professors Helen Rees and Jeremy Nel, 30 senior working academics, researchers and clinicians from eight medical schools in the country.
The medical schools are: Wits University, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, University of Pretoria, University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, Nelson Mandela University, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Free State and the SA Military Health Service.
“Other countries that have already confirmed their participation in the trial are Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand,” said the Minister.
He said the research team would undertake the study in 14 leading hospitals across the country.
Speaking Notes for the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, at the Press Briefing on South Africa’s Response to COVID-19 pandemic – 31 March 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and is giving rise to problems and challenges that governments across the world are struggling to deal with. Over the last two months the world has changed dramatically and this impacts on governance challenges. As DIRCO we have to focus on many fronts. The most important one is ensuring that we play our part in curtailing the spread of the virus in our population, so as to protect the most vulnerable amongst us. International travel restrictions as part of a social distancing strategies have been implemented by many countries in the world. These travel restrictions are accompanied by national strategies that limits movements of people through lockdowns to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
This has resulted in many travellers across the world finding themselves stranded in foreign countries, including many South Africans. We empathise with their plight and are doing whatever is within our means to assist them to be safe, as comfortable as possible and to travel back to South Africa.
Our missions abroad, have been collating data of South Africans stranded at airports and cities across the world as countries implement measures aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic
The most recent data on that we have suggests that we may have 1 471 South Africans stranded across the world. Of this number, 723 are students, 204 people who are workers, 224 tourists, 320 who haven’t disclosed. I cannot say that these numbers are 100 percent accurate as it is based on people who have approached us for assistance through our missions and consular services. There may be more people in need of assistance that we do not know about yet.
In terms of the assistance Dirco is providing to stranded South Africans, I have directed that priority be given to those who are stranded at the airports, running out of accommodation, the elderly and the sick.
Our Missions where possible will continue to render consular services, including negotiating with the governments where there are lockdowns in order to facilitate the movement of stranded South Africans.
Given the difficulties associated with travel restrictions we appeal to those who can afford to return to do so at their own cost. Some have started organizing themselves into groups and have approached the Department to ensure their safe passage home. Others are students whose accommodation in crowded dormitories forced them to come home.
Some South Africans have explored options such as arranging private charter flights to SA. This can be done in cooperation with their travel insurance companies, their sponsors or in groups with other citizens in the same country. In such cases, we have requested our Missions to assist with obtaining flight clearances for chartered flights in the host countries and to get permission to depart on such chartered flight.
Some of our citizens have indicated that they are able to bring themselves home. My department will facilitate with logistics and consular services to enable them travel back safely.
For those who cannot depart, my department will be liaising with families and friends in SA to contribute to the payment for accommodation. Such funds can be transferred by Western Union or MoneyGram, commercial banks or via international EFT directly to the account of the institutions.
For the rest of the South Africans who might not be stranded or distressed, we have advised that they remain where they are to reduce movement until the end of the lockdown.
We also make a special appeal that they observe all the rules and regulations put in place by the authorities of the countries where they are in, as these are meant to curb the spread of this COVID-19 virus.
I have tasked our Missions to also determine from host countries whether the authorities can offer any assistance to foreigners stranded in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, the issuing / extension of visas.
I must take this opportunity to thank all the countries that have assisted in this regard not with only consular services but also have donated both financially as well as with other resources necessary to fight the spread of this virus.
Our Consular Services Unit in our Head Office is monitoring calls of stranded South Africans daily to ensure that they are informed all the time.
We are aware of the anxiety the closure of borders must have caused to embassies. According to the WHO guidelines, countries have an obligation to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread across countries in order to stem the pandemic once and for all.
Our Missions and Head Office will continue to be in touch with all South Africans until they are comfortably reunited with their families. The Regulation require of all incoming nationals, irrespective of risk category, to undergo screening, testing and be quarantined.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
27 March 2020
With all international flights prohibited during the lockdown period, international tourists in South Africa will no longer be tested upon their departure at the airport.
The Department of Health will now do testing at all accommodation establishments where these international travellers are staying during the lockdown period.
South African Tourism has over the last week, called on all establishments to furnish details of international travellers staying with them.
South African Tourism is also encouraging all international tourists in the country, during lockdown, to inform their respective Embassies of their whereabouts.
For further information please visit https://www.southafrica.net/gl/en/trade/page/coronavirus-covid19-south-african-tourism-update/tourism-industry-faqs
Sisa Ntshona CEO: SA Tourism
Monday, 30 March 2020
Dear Fellow South African,
As we begin the first full week of the nation-wide lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic that is devastating the world, we are grateful for good news that brings us joy and hope at this difficult and uncertain time.
Yesterday, I was in Polokwane to meet the 114 South Africans who were evacuated from Wuhan in China two weeks ago. They have ended their quarantine and are finally going home to be with their families. They have all tested negative for the virus and are in good health and good spirits.
For months, they have been in lockdown, first in Wuhan for some 51 days and then in Polokwane for 14 days. They have been unable to be with their loved ones, unable to leave their living quarters and uncertain about when their ordeal would end. When we add the remaining 17 days that South Africa will be under lockdown they will have been under lockdown for 82 days.
It was wonderful to spend time with this diverse group of South Africans made up of all ages, languages and backgrounds. I was impressed by their resilience and courage and by their determination to remain healthy. They have come from the epicentre of the coronavirus in Wuhan in China and have seen the devastating impact this virus is wreaking on human life. It is not surprising to hear them say that they are on a mission to safe-guard the health of those around them. Now their patience and fortitude has been rewarded, because they are returning to their families.
Their return home was made possible by a great many people who went to great lengths to make this repatriation operation a success.
As a nation, we are extremely grateful to the Government and the people of China for taking such good care of our citizens, and for their assistance in organising their repatriation. It is significant that several of the South Africans in Wuhan were on study scholarships from the Chinese government; an act of generosity that is deeply appreciated.
We are grateful too to all the people who were involved in the operation, from the SAA fight crew to the medical team to the police and soldiers who brought them home. Each and every one of them stepped forward to take responsibility for the safety and well-being of others. They were prepared to undertake a difficult and dangerous mission and to subject themselves to quarantine. And now, they all tell me, they are ready for their next mission.
I wish to thank the staff and management of the Ranch Hotel in Polokwane, who took great care of the returnees. They were prepared to play their part in our national effort to overcome this disease. Everyone involved in this operation has done South Africa proud.
The experience of the South Africans in Wuhan demonstrates the effectiveness – and the necessity – of a state of lockdown. It was due to the drastic actions that the Chinese government took to contain the disease in the city of Wuhan, that all of our people were able to return uninfected and healthy.
Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in the province of Hubei, had more than 50,000 infections. Now, after more than two months after stringent lockdown measures were put in place, the province has had fewer than 20 new cases in the past two weeks.
The containment of the disease in Wuhan City, in Hubei Province and in other places across China required a massive and extraordinary effort. It involved drastic restrictions on daily life and is having a severe impact on the Chinese economy. Other countries that have taken similar measures are having greater success in managing the spread of the disease than countries that have been slower to respond.
As the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide grows to over 700,000 and the number of deaths exceeds 33,000, we can draw lessons from these countries.
It is now abundantly clear that the most effective way for a society to contain the spread of the disease is for the population to remain at home and physically isolated from each other for at least several weeks. And it is important that this lockdown and all other emergency measures are both strictly adhered to and consistently enforced.
As the South Africans from Wuhan can testify, such restrictions on daily life, on movement and on ordinary human contact are extremely difficult to endure. In the South African context, a lockdown brings additional hardship and strain, and we are doing everything within our means to lessen the impact on our people.
But the lesson from the South Africans in Wuhan is that a lockdown works. It shows that if we strictly observe the rules in place to stop the virus spreading, we will be able to bring infection rates down. It shows that if we cooperate with health authorities in doing what we have to do, we won’t be just saving our own lives but those around us too.
The story of our South African returnees from Wuhan should give us encouragement and hope in the difficult weeks that lie ahead.
Their story tells us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that if we stay the course, that if we remain disciplined and respect the lockdown, that if we work together, we will overcome.
With best wishes,
President Cyril Ramaphosa
Withdrawal of Visa Exemptions for travellers from COVID-19 High and Medium risk countries as determined by the World Health Organisation(WHO)
VISA EXEMPTIONS WITHDRAWN FOR THE FOLLOWING COUNTRIES:
United States of America
*No foreign national departing from these countries will be allowed to enter the Republic of South Africa
Visas issued to persons from the following countries in terms of section 10(9) of the Immigration Act, 2002, has been cancelled with immediate effect:
People’s Republic of China
In terms of Section 10A(4)(c) of the Immigration Act, 2002, the Visa Exemption of passport holders of the medium risk countries has been withdrawn:
South African citizens, PR holders and Refugees of South Africa returning from identified risk countries will be subjected to extensive screening on arrival.
Any foreign national who is already present in the Republic and originates from a country which is affected by the COVID-19 outbreak or who, in order to reach such destination of origin needs to transit a country which is affected by COVID-19, and whose temporary residence visa is due to expire or has already expired, will be allowed to re-apply for such a visa provided they meet all the prescribed requirements. Visas valid until 31 July 2020 may be issued to such applicants.
Any foreign national who originates from a country which is affected by the COVID-19 outbreak or who, in order to reach such a destination of origin needs to transit a country which is affected by the COVID-19, and who is the holder of a temporary visa which expired since 01 December 2019 and those which will be expiring up to 31 March 2020 will be allowed to re-apply for such a visa without the need to first obtain FORM 20 (Authorisation for an illegal foreigner to remain in the country pending an application for status)
These are temporary measures and is applicable until further notice.