Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media
Thank you for gracing us with your presence once more.
We have concluded yet another session of the Provincial Command Team, which is a structure we established to provide comprehensive response to the unprecedented plethora of challenges the Coronavirus pandemic is throwing at us.
Today’s engagement assessed the early hours of the lockdown and the response by members of the public.
We begin today’s briefing with you on a sombre note, following unfortunate news that as a country we have recorded first deaths with the two compatriots from the Western Cape due to the Novel Coronavirus.
We send our deepest condolences to their families. We are informed by the Minister of Health Dr Zwelini Mkhize that, as of this morning, the number of positive cases has surpassed the 1000 mark, which should be cause for concern for all of us.
We want to re-iterate that we have an individual and collective responsibility to ensure that these two deaths will not be in vain – but instead galvanise us all as a society to roll up our sleeves and strengthen our fight against this deadly pandemic.
National Lockdown Initial Report
The National Lockdown came into effect at midnight. As the Government of KwaZulu-Natal, we wish to thank South Africans for responding so positively to the President’s declaration of a national lockdown. Indeed the overwhelming majority of our citizens as expected of them abided by the directives and we appreciate them for continuing to play their part in our effort to emerge victorious from this battle.
We wish to further emphasise the fact that the call is done in the best interest of all the people of this country, in order to curb the spread of this deadly virus.
We are fully cognisant of the fact that this may seem like a great inconvenience because it is a disruption to the order of life as we’ve known it.
We nevertheless ask all those who may not have understood the import of the message to respond and do what Government is saying. These restrictions are also in the interest of protecting them as well.
Since this morning, some of our MECs have gone on the ground, including Transport and Community Safety and Liaison MEC Bheki Ntuli, and the Justice Crime Prevention and Security cluster visited some areas including KwaMashu and uMlazi Mega city.
We are happy to report that initial indications are that there is a lot of compliance with the order. We highly appreciate that, and we ask for that positive behaviour to continue.
What emerged is that there are people in the townships, who this morning flooded the shopping malls and are engaging in panic shopping.
This has prompted the staging of roadblocks as part of the interventions. A large number of vehicles were turned back.
IMPACT ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT
We are also concerned that most people were stranded and without transport after 09h00 am.
What has further compounded the situation is the announcement by SANTACO that they are shutting down all operations nationally because they were not consulted on the regulations.
This afternoon, there will be a meeting to discuss a contingency plan with regards to transport. Monitoring will be done by members of the JCPS cluster to assess the situation in the afternoon.
Other JCPS members will also be attending to the accident which claimed six lives in Richmond road. We also send our condolences to the families. The vehicle that caused this accident around 02h00am, should not have been there in the first place. We have asked that the incident be investigated and we demand answers as to why these two vehicles were on the road.
ARRESTS MADE FOR CONTRAVENING THE LOCKDOWN
The police have informed us that as part of their enforcement of the Disaster regulations, no fewer than 24 people have been arrested for violating the regulations and for attempted murder. Once again we appeal to our people to work with the law enforcement agencies and avoid confrontation.
MITIGATING THE IMPACT OF THE LOCKDOWN ON THE ECONOMY:
Despite these challenges we are facing, we reiterate our commitment to get this province to be the leading economy in South Africa with the largest contribution to the nation’s GDP.
We are putting in place measures to cushion all sectors of the economy against the impact of this pandemic. We are also focusing on SMMEs, Co-Operatives and informal traders and hawkers. We know that they have been affected. In as much as we are in combat against the current enemy which is the Coronavirus pandemic, we are also doing the post-Coronavirus Economic Recovery Strategy. The relevant MECs who are part of the Economic Cluster are hard at work and soon the Provincial Executive will at an appropriate time unveil these measures.
Critically, we wish to send a strong warning to retailers who have been raising food prices in the wake of the outbreak of Coronavirus. We welcome the arrest of the owner of one Meat Market in Phoenix, who admitted to raising food prices.
We also welcome the leadership demonstrated by Spar KZN. Negotiations are underway to ensure that they terminate contracts of Spar Franchise owners who are raising food prices. We wish to announce that officials from the Consumer Protection Services are working with the South African Police Services, the National Consumer Commission, the National Competition Authority and the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa to enforce legislation. We want to protect our consumers during this period.
REPORTED SHORTAGE OF MASKS:
We noted reports which alludes to a shortage of masks for healthcare workers.
While we do concede that this has been a challenge, we are extremely pleased with a donation of 100 000 masks that we have received yesterday from a Chinese organisation that is based in Guangdong. These masks will go a very long way in alleviating the impact from these shortages.
We have already taken delivery of some of these masks, and will be distributing them where they are most needed.
These are not big challenges, as you’ll know that we are in unchartered waters. This is unprecedented. With an emergency of this kind, there are bound to be teething challenges, which we will soon overcome.
As we navigate ourselves out of this storm, we remain confident that South Africans will continue to respond positively to our fight against this pandemic, which is the greatest threat to our lives.