BLOG: Public schools closed for a month (with exceptions), SIU to focus on corruption

At 8pm on Thursday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the country on developments of the risk-adjusted strategy to manage the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa.

You can watch the President's address below. 

Ramaphosa speaks on the immense contribution Andrew Mlangeni made to the fight for South Africa, and sends condolences to his family, friends and to citizens. An official funeral will be held for him, and flags will fly at half mast. 

We will overcome this pandemic. We will protect lives and livelihoods. And we will restore our people to health. 

Ramaphosa calls on South Africans to remain strong, disciplined, focus, and safe. 

A common recovery plan is being worked on to assist the country in rebuilding.

We cannot wait until the COVID-19 threat has passed to work on economic recovery, growth and transformation, says Ramaphosa.

Government will be working with leaders in society to safeguard what we have to overcome the disease. 

During this time, Ramaphosa will get an update on any investigations every six weeks. He says our resources are being stretched to the limit. 

Every instance of alleged corruption must be thoroughly investigated. In order to speed up the process of dealing with corruption, the president signed a proclamation authorising the SIU to immediately investigate any alleged misuse of COVID-19 funds in any state institution. It is then obliged to report this to the NPA.

Regulations were put in place to prohibit unjustified price hikes to make sure everyone can access what they need. Since lockdown, the Competition Commission has investigated over 800 companies for pricing.

"Corruption puts lives at risk."

Ramaphosa expresses anger at theft, corruption, mismanagement of funds and goods for people. He says he has heard of overpricing of goods, collusion between officials and service providers, fake UIF claims, and the creation of fake NGOs to receive funding. 

Changes have been made to allow more businesses to apply for assistance from government, which Ramaphosa hopes will make a difference to recipients. 

R2.2 billion has been paid out for the temporary relief grant. This grant will continue to be paid for the full six-month period, "providing essential support for the most vulnerable". 

Ramaphosa says it also assists workers wages, and says the UIF has paid out over R38 billion. 

He says loans will be used for PPEs, medical equipment and to assist social needs. 

We are in the process of discussing a loan with the International Monetary Fund, Ramaphosa says.

Ramaphosa says the economy has been hit hard by the effects of the virus. He says this is why the government put together of packages for the unemployed, the elderly and business owners. The money came from funding and loans.

Ramaphosa thanks teachers who have been on the frontline of the pandemic, "under great and difficult conditions".

Children and parents will be able to collect food directly from schools. Ramaphosa said this will cause difficulties for those who need to make alternative child-care arrangements. He says this must be done as schools cannot become sites of infections.

The academic year will also be extended beyond 2020, said the president. 

Matrics will only take a one week break, returning on 3 August.
Grade sevens will take a two week break, returning on 10 August.

Cabinet has decided all public schools should take a break for the next four weeks. 

WHO officials have also said that the safest way to continue was to open schools in low transmission areas. 

He says the Department of Basic Education met with more than 60 organsiations representing parents, school governing bodies, educators, independent schools and civil society organisations - together with officials across the country. The meetings brought a broad range of differing views.

President Ramaphosa begins to speak about schooling. It has been a contentious subject, with many saying schools should be closed while government instituted a phased-in approach to different school grades. 

The President has begun his address. He mourns the 6,000 people who have lost their lives so far to coronavirus.

Global coronavirus infections surged past 15 million on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally, with the pandemic gathering pace even as countries remain divided in their response to the crisis. 

In the United States, which has the highest number of cases in the world with 3.91 million infections, President Donald Trump warned that it would probably get worse before it got better.

A tweet posted by government yesterday caused a lot of distress for many already frustrated South Africans. The tweet said that the ban on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes will remain in place throughout the lockdown period, in order to save lives.

While government backtracked, saying the tweet was a mistake, the price of pineapples has risen dramatically with reported increases of up to 150% since the reinstatement of the ban on alcohol sales, as South Africans once again resort to home brews.

You can read more about the tweet situation in this article.

South Africa is now among the top five countries in the world in terms of coronavirus infection numbers. On Thursday, South Africa recorded the highest number of coronavirus-linked deaths in a 24-hour cycle, with the Health Ministry confirming a 572 fatalities. 

The President’s address usually follows a few meetings between himself, Cabinet and the National Coronavirus Command Council. 

It was announced today that President Cyril Ramaphosa would be addressing South Africa at 8pm. His address is meant to inform the public on updates to the risk-adjusted strategy to manage the spread of COVID-19.