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WATCH: President says public schools to close for 4 weeks

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses South Africans as industries lament the effects of the lockdown regulations meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

FILE: President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: @PresidencyZA/Twitter.

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa is addressing the nation for an update on measures by government to curb the spread of COVID-19 while easing the impact of the pandemic on the economy.

The President announced that the country now has 498, 052 confirmed cases, making it the country with the fifth highest number of COVID-19 infections in the world.

South Africa also accounts for half of the overall number of cases on the continent.

On Wednesday the Eastern Cape logging an unprecedented number of fatalities in a 24-hour cycle. The province recorded 400 COVID-19 related deaths on Wednesday night.

Addressing the concerns of some unions, parents and pupils, Ramaphosa announced Cabinet's decision to close all public schools for four weeks.

This means that schools will be closed from 27 July and will reopen on 24 August.

However, the President added that Grade 12 learners and teachers would only take a week-long break, and grade 7 pupils would take a two-week break.

He said the current academic year would be extended beyond 2020. The Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga would give details on this extension.

South Africans have been locked in a charged debate on whether more pupils should return to class as the country approaches the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The President acknowledged delays in the payment of social grants but promised that future payments would be smoother now that the necessary systems had been put into place. Thus far, 4.4 million people had received the special COVID-19 grant, which amounted to a total ofR2.2 billion. He said an additional R15 billion would be paid out to social grant recipients by the end of the month.

Ramaphosa said while he was pleased with the relief that government had been able to provide those vulnerable members of communities, he was concerned by the growing allegations of funds which were stolen, goods that were overpriced, and reports of corruption and maladministration of public funds.

He said, as a result, he on Thursday authorised the SIU to immediately investigate any improper conduct in the procurement of any goods related to the national state of disaster in any state institutions.

WATCH: President Ramaphosa addresses South Africans