Covid-19 wrap: Travel ban to high risk countries imminent as SA revokes visas

17 March 2020 - 10:41 By TimesLIVE
People at Cape Town International Airport wear face masks on March 6 2020.
People at Cape Town International Airport wear face masks on March 6 2020.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES

Covid-19: Travel ban to high risk countries imminent as SA revokes visas

The South African government says it is revoking 8,000 visas issued to Chinese nationals as part of a travel ban aimed at countries with a high risk of coronavirus.

It will further revoke 425 visas granted to people from Iran.

This was being done as in line with efforts to reduce the risk of virus coming in via high risk countries.

They included France, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the US, UK and China.


Gautrain staff in self-isolation after executive tests positive, two stations chemically decontaminated

Gautrain confirmed on Tuesday that an executive who travelled from France — and interacted with staff at the Bombela Operating Company offices in Midrand as well as Gautrain stations — had tested positive for Covid-19.

“We ... want to use the opportunity to advise that on Sunday afternoon [March 15] the Bombela Operating Company (BOC) was informed that a business unit director who visited the BOC offices in Midrand between 12 and 14 March has subsequently tested positive for Covid-19,” Gautrain management said in a statement on Tuesday.

Here's what Africa is doing to fight coronavirus

The World Health Organization has warned of the risk that COVID-19 could overwhelm strained public health systems in sub-Saharan Africa. Here is a selection of measures countries are taking to prepare for the virus and limit its spread.

South Africa

With more cases than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa is barring entry to foreign travellers coming from or transiting through high-risk countries including Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland, the United States, the United Kingdom and China, according to an advisory issue by the foreign ministry on Tuesday.

-Reuters


PSL can play behind closed doors, says minister Nathi Mthethwa

Minister of sports Nathi Mthethwa says the Premier Soccer League (PSL) can continue being played behind closed doors - but only under stringent health and safety guidelines that are in line with disaster management requirements.

The PSL suspended this week’s fixtures in response to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s  declaration of a state of disaster as a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa.


'Comrades will never go on': Nathi Mthethwa slams race organisers

Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa has slammed Tuesday’s statement by the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) - in which they declared that the marathon will go ahead as planned‚ pending a decision on April 17 - as “irresponsible”.

Numerous sports events have been cancelled in the wake of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of a national disaster on Sunday. One of the measures is a prohibition on gatherings of 100 people or more.


Court needed to get family into quarantine

The Gauteng health department on Tuesday confirmed going to court to get a family, including a mother and daughter who tested positive for Covid-19, put into quarantine.

Spokesperson Kwara Kenana said the mother and daughter had tested positive on Monday but the husband refused to be tested and left the hospital without swabs being taken. They refused to be quarantined.


Cyril Ramaphosa postpones his first meeting as AU chair

President Cyril Ramaphosa has postponed a planned meeting with commissioners of the African Union on Thursday.

Ramaphosa was elected chairperson of the AU earlier this year.

The meeting is now expected to take place in April.

After announcing a state of national disaster on Sunday, Ramaphosa said all non-essential travel across all spheres of government would be cancelled.



Parliament to shut down 'until further notice' because of Covid-19

Public access to parliament has been stopped until further notice because of the coronavirus.

The national legislature is also taking steps to reduce the number of staff allowed within the precinct, where on a busy day thousands of civil servants, politicians and other stakeholders interact.

Parliament said activities would be suspended from Wednesday afternoon until further notice.



Coronavirus case suspected aboard the good ship Corona

The cargo ship MV Corona is under quarantine in Cape Town harbour because of a coronavirus scare.

The general cargo carrier has featured prominently on social media in recent weeks due to its unfortunate name. 

Now the joke has turned into reality, with two crew members in isolation - and one of them showing symptoms of Covid-19.


Israel imposes near-lockdown to contain virus

Israel on Tuesday barred residents from leaving home for “non-essential” reasons and stopped night-time public transport, tightening already strict measures to fight the spread of coronavirus.

A health ministry directive ordered people to stay at home unless going out to buy food or medicine, seeking medical attention, or travelling to workplaces where no more than 10 people are present.

“You must not leave your homes to visit parks, playgrounds, the beach, the pool or libraries,” a ministry statement said. “You should maintain social contacts by media and not entertain friends or family unless they live in your building.”

- AFP


Slaapstad gets real as council hits snooze button on dozens of facilities

The gradual end of life as Capetonians know it will accelerate on Wednesday with the closure of numerous council-run facilities.

Mayor Dan Plato said that in response to the Covid-19 disaster, doors and gates would be locked at swimming pools, camping sites, museums, art centres, community halls and civic centres, stadiums, spray parks, resorts, braai and picnic spots, city sports fields and nature reserves.

Earlier on Tuesday, the council said all events requiring a permit would be banned and permits would be withdrawn for any events that already had them.


A man walks across the empty medieval Charles Bridge in Prague, on March 16 2020, as the Czech government restricts movement of people to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
A man walks across the empty medieval Charles Bridge in Prague, on March 16 2020, as the Czech government restricts movement of people to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Image: REUTERS/David W Cerny

American Express sees hit to spending volumes from coronavirus

American Express said on Tuesday spending volumes fell at the end of February and well into March as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on consumer spending, leading it to forecast low-single-digit percentage revenue growth for the first quarter.

The virus has upended the retail industry as shoppers stay home to avoid catching the highly contagious illness and stores remain shut.

Mastercard, Visa and PayPal have also warned of slowing revenue growth due to the outbreak.

- Reuters


1,700 trapped on Cape Town cruise ship in Covid-19 drama

More than 1,700 people are trapped aboard a cruise liner in Cape Town amid a Covid-19 scare.

Six passengers on the ship, which set sail from Walvis Bay on Friday and arrived off Cape Town on Sunday, were on the same flight as a sailor who had since shown coronavirus symptoms, a Transnet statement said on Tuesday.

The six passengers, who flew to Cape Town from Istanbul then on to Walvis Bay, have since been evacuated and taken to hospital for tests before being moved to a quarantine area arranged by port health officials.

But until their test results are known, the remaining 1,720 passengers and crew are confined to the ship.


Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng says courts won't close - yet

Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng says there will be no shutdown of SA’s courts in response to the Covid-19 virus - for now.

But he added the courts may need to be shut down if millions of South Africans became infected.


Euro 2020 postponed over coronavirus


Covid-19 sinks Cape Town aquarium for first time since Christmas 1996

The Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town says it is closing for the first time in 23 years because of the coronavirus disaster.

CEO Michael Farquhar said the closure would begin on Wednesday and end on April 14.

"This will be the first time the aquarium has closed since Christmas Day in 1996," he said.


Spain logs nearly 2,000 new cases, as infections top 11,000

Spain on Tuesday confirmed nearly 2,000 new cases of Covid-19, sending the total spiralling past 11,000, with 491 deaths, the health ministry said.

Spain is the fourth worst-hit country in the world after China, Italy and Iran, with numbers rising rapidly despite an unprecedented national lockdown, with the government ordering its 46-million population to stay home.

Over the past 24 hours, the number of people infected rose by 1,987, hiking the overall total to 11,178, the ministry’s emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon said. At the same time, the number of people who had recovered from the virus stood at 1,028, giving a recovery rate of just over 9%.

- AFP


Pick n Pay announces pensioners shopping hour

Pick n Pay will open all its supermarkets and hypermarkets an hour earlier every Wednesday for elderly customers.

The initiative will start on Wednesday and stores will be open exclusively for customers over the age of 65 years from 7am to 8am. 


MSC halts South African cruises amid coronavirus outbreak

MSC Cruises will stop all remaining South African cruises for the cruise season ending April 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, the company said on Tuesday morning. 

The cruise liner's decision comes days after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the closure of 35 of South Africa's 52 land-based ports of entry in an effort to control the spread of the disease. 


Life's a beach, even with the coronavirus outbreak

People gather on Ipanema beach after authorities announced measures on the coronavirus outbreak, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on March 15 2020.
People gather on Ipanema beach after authorities announced measures on the coronavirus outbreak, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on March 15 2020.
Image: REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

'Hot girl' licks plane toilet seat for TikTok coronavirus challenge

A TikTok user has been slammed on social media after posting a six-second “coronavirus challenge” video.

In the now-viral video, Ava Louise can be seen licking a plane toilet seat.

The stunt is being widely criticised amid the global Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 6,000 people worldwide.


Tom Hanks 'feeling a lot better' after release from hospital

Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson have been released from the Australian hospital in which they were in isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus last week, their son Chet Hanks said on Tuesday.

In a video posted on Instagram, Chet confirmed their release from hospital, but said they remained in self-quarantine. 


SA footballers abroad left kicking their heels

With European football shut down for the foreseeable future over fears around the coronavirus‚ a number of South Africans are left wondering whether they will receive the reward for their hard work in this campaign.

Leagues in England‚ France and Belgium in particular are going through their options‚ with a number of potential scenarios being laid out.



ZCC calls meeting to discuss Easter pilgrimage

Zion Christian Church (ZCC) has called a meeting with its members and health professionals on Saturday where they are expected to discuss issues related to the annual Easter pilgrimage amid coronavirus concerns.

In a circular to its ministers and branches, ZCC said its clergy are expected to attend the task team meeting.

Each district was asked to send 10 people. Although a few churches have announced their closure amid the global pandemic, it appears that the pilgrimage will continue.


Bree Taxi Rank in Johannesburg unusually quiet


Cape Town bans all events that need a permit amid national disaster

The national coronavirus disaster means the end of all approved events in Cape Town, the city council said on Tuesday.

JP Smith, the mayoral committee member for safety and security, said permits for events that had ready been approved would be withdrawn, and no new permit applications would be accepted or processed.


Hand sanitisers may be on the way for minibus taxi passengers in Cape Town

Hand sanitisers could be dispensed at minibus taxi ranks under Cape Town's plan to protect public transport passengers from the coronavirus.

Standing room on MyCiTi buses will be limited to half the normal number of passengers, where possible, to maintain “social distance”, the city council's mayoral committee member for transport, Felicity Purchase, said on Tuesday.

More frequent deep-cleansing would also be implemented at public transport interchanges and minibus taxi ranks.


Luke Dale Roberts to temporarily shut down restaurants

Chef Luke Dale Roberts and his senior management team have made the decision to self-isolate all their restaurants, as well as their employees, for the next two weeks, from Tuesday. 

The Test Kitchen, The Pot Luck Club, The Shortmarket Club and Salsify at The Roundhouse are planned to re-open on Monday, March 30. A final decision on this will be made on March 27.


Alcohol wipes to the rescue as banks conduct business as usual

Banks say they are taking precautionary measures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic - but some staff say nothing or little is being done.

The banks said they would use alcohol swabs to wipe all biometric readers before any transaction or customer interaction.

But some staff have complained that their bosses are doing nothing to protect them from the coronavirus pandemic.


Debate in the time of coronavirus: An elbow bump greeting for Biden and Sanders

Democratic US presidential candidates former vice president Joe Biden and senator Bernie Sanders do an elbow bump instead of a handshake as they greet other before the start of the 11th Democratic candidates debate of the 2020 US presidential campaign, held in CNN's Washington studios without an audience because of the global coronavirus pandemic, in Washington, US, on March 15 2020.
Democratic US presidential candidates former vice president Joe Biden and senator Bernie Sanders do an elbow bump instead of a handshake as they greet other before the start of the 11th Democratic candidates debate of the 2020 US presidential campaign, held in CNN's Washington studios without an audience because of the global coronavirus pandemic, in Washington, US, on March 15 2020.
Image: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

A week of coronavirus: From social distancing to buying toilet paper

On Monday, the health ministry confirmed 11 new Covid-19 infections, bringing the number in SA to 62.

Here’s how coronavirus has flipped the switch in the country in the past few days.


45 more positive cases in the Philippines


Cape wine estates close over coronavirus

Several top wine estates in the Cape winelands have shut some or all of their operations after a member of a Dutch wine tour - which visited 30 estates and venues during a 10-day trip - tested positive for Covid-19 at the weekend.

“He’s probably the Patient Zero of the Winelands,” said Karl Lambour, general manager of Tokara Wine and Olive Estate in Stellenbosch.


'Game of Thrones' star is self-isolating with family

Game of Thrones star Kristofer Hivju has tested positive for Covid-19, becoming the latest star to contract the deadly disease.

Hivju, 41, posted a picture with his wife on Instagram and next to it a post revealing he had tested positive for Covid-19 and was self-isolating at his home in Norway with his family. 


Safa to tell sports minister all football should be suspended indefinitely

The South African Football Association is to brief sport minister Nathi Mthethwa on Tuesday on the impact of the coronavirus on soccer and recommend the indefinite suspension of all football in the country.

In a statement, Safa said they will brief the minister on the international and continental impact by the coronavirus pandemic on football.

Safa are also to brief Mthethwa on their “advice” made on Monday that all football in SA be indefinitely suspended.


Idris Elba tests positive for Covid-19: I have no symptoms so far

Actor Idris Elba set social media abuzz with news that he's tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday night. 

In the video, the much-loved actor can be seen next to his wife Sabrina, who he said was yet to get tested. Idris admitted that testing positive with the deadly virus was not a great feeling but encouraged his fans not to panic.


Jack Ma to donate test kits, masks to every African state

Chinese billionaire businessman Jack Ma has announced that his foundation, together with the Alibaba Foundation, will donate testing kits, masks, protective suits and face masks to all 54 African countries to help them fight the coronavirus outbreak. 

This comes a few days after he pledged similar support to the US, offering the country 500,000 coronavirus test kits and a million masks amid a shortage of kits for diagnosing the potentially deadly disease.

In a statement on Twitter on Tuesday, Ma said: "We cannot ignore the potential risk to Africa and assume this continent of 1.3-billion people will blissfully escape the crisis. The world cannot afford the unthinkable consequences of a Covid-19 pandemic in Africa.


All early childhood development centres in Gauteng to close

The Gauteng department of social development has instructed all early childhood centres across the province to close this week.

Department spokesperson Thabiso Hlongwane said the department was adhering to the measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the outbreak of the coronavirus.


US, China trade barbs over coronavirus

A spat between the US and China over the novel coronavirus escalated on Tuesday as President Donald Trump angered Beijing by referring to the pathogen as the “Chinese Virus.”

The two countries have sparred over the origin of the virus for days, with a Chinese official promoting conspiracy theories claiming it was brought to China by the US army and American officials using terms seen as stigmatising a nation.

“The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus,” Trump tweeted on Monday night.

Trump’s allies had previously referred to the pandemic as the “Chinese coronavirus”.

Beijing said on Tuesday it was “strongly indignant” over the phrase, which it called “a kind of stigmatisation”. The United States should “immediately stop its unjustified accusations against China,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters.

The novel coronavirus virus was first detected late last year, with China’s own health officials initially saying its source was a live animal market in the central city of Wuhan, whose government had initially tried to cover up the outbreak. But China has sought to distance itself from the virus, saying the origin is still unknown, while seeking global goodwill by offering aid to countries facing serious outbreaks.

The State Department on Friday summoned the Chinese ambassador, Cui Tiankai, to denounce Beijing’s promotion of a conspiracy theory that had gained wide attention on social media. Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian suggested on Twitter last week that “patient zero” in the global pandemic may have come from the United States.

“It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation,” tweeted Zhao, who is known for his provocative statements on social media.

- AFP


Driver safety amid Covid-19: Gautrain bus services suspended in Rosebank

All Gautrain buses in Rosebank, Johannesburg, were cancelled on Tuesday morning after drivers raised concerns about Covid-19.

“Some of our drivers have expressed concern about the coronavirus.

“Management is engaging with them and, as a result, there is no bus service in Rosebank,” Gautrain spokesperson Kesagee Nayager said.



Panic-buying leaves shelves empty, other South Africans with zero options

As South Africans come to grips with measures implemented by President Cyril Ramaphosa to prevent the spread of coronavirus, many have taken to panic-buying, filling their trolleys with goods and leaving other citizens with zero options.

Images of empty shelves and long lines have been spread on social media.

View the pictures here.


Rand Easter Show postponed after surge in coronavirus cases

The Rand Easter Show has been postponed due the surge in Covid-19 infections.

The event was expected to run from April 8 to 13. 

The organisers said it the event would be rescheduled later, in “consensus with government”.


WATCH | Inside the Wuhan repatriation: 'I'm concerned about going home. I don't know how people will react'

Amy Pittaway was on board the airbus A340-600 carrying South Africans coming from Wuhan, China on March 14 2020. The mission saw at least 114 South Africans repatriated from the former coronavirus epicentre back home. Pittaway takes us along her journey from Wuhan back to South Africa.


Your cash doesn't have coronavirus, don’t give it to criminals: Reserve Bank

As fear over the coronavirus grips Mzansi, criminals have taken the opportunity to scam unsuspecting people.

On Monday, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) warned the public about criminals going to homes claiming to be representatives of the bank and telling them to hand over cash as it was “contaminated” with the virus.


Tourism body calls for calm as travel ban caused by coronavirus takes effect

The travel ban imposed by government as part of “extraordinary measures” to reduce the impact of coronavirus will have dire results for SA’s inbound tourism private sector and its international partners.

The Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa) made this comment after the decision announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday.


Wedding planners feeling the pressure amid coronavirus cancellations

Weddings are becoming casualties of the strict social distancing measures put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus in South Africa.

Among the measures announced to reduce the spread of the disease is the prohibiting of gatherings of more than 100 people. Weddings, as well as other public events, are being halted as a result.


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