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President Ramaphosa Urges South Africans to Use the COVID-19 Contact Tracing App. Here’s How it Works

On Wednesday, president Cyril Ramaphosa urged South Africans to use government’s new coronavirus contact-tracing app, which was launched earlier this month.

“I want to make a call this evening to everyone who has a smartphone in South Africa to download the COVID Alert mobile app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store,” Ramaphosa said during his address to the nation. The app has been zero-rated by mobile networks, so you can download it without any data costs.”

Using Bluetooth technology, the app will alert any user if they have been in close contact with any other user who has tested positive for coronavirus in the past 14 days.
“Contact tracing  is an important preventative measure to protect yourself and your close family and friends,” Ramaphosa said, as he announced details about South Africa’s progress to Level 1 on midnight, Sunday.

This will include the opening up of borders to foreign tourists from countries that don’t have high infection rates. These travellers will be asked to install the COVID Alert South Africa mobile app on arrival, Ramaphosa said.

The COVID Alert SA app is available for Android devices on the Google Play store and on the Apple App Store for iPhones, with the South African National Department of Health as publisher.

The small app, 2.1MB on Android phones and 5MB on iOS, promises to anonymously keep track of your contact with everyone else using it over a two-week period, the upper end of the incubation period for Sars-CoV-2. If a user discloses they have tested positive for the coronavirus, everyone in that contact list is notified.

The app uses the exposure notification framework created by Google and Apple for use during the pandemic. “By downloading and using the COVID Alert SA app, you become a part of a powerful digital network of app users who choose to work together for the benefit of everyone in the app community while all enjoying complete privacy and anonymity,” the department of health promises.

“App users understand their exposure to Covid-19 and help others to do the same. We can all work together to curb the spread of Covid-19 and, ultimately, to save lives.” The app is free, and uses only a small amount of data every day to check in with a central server. But it requires the power-hungry Bluetooth radio to be turned on, which makes for some battery drain.

COVID Alert SA does not record your name or location. Instead, every device is assigned a unique code. Using Bluetooth, it shares that code with other phones running the app when the come into range, and records the signal strength (a rough proxy for how close another person is) and date for any such contact.

The range of Bluetooth transmission can vary wildly depending on a range of factors, but is around 10 metres as a rule of thumb. Anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus must type in a PIN number the department of health sends by SMS as part of the notification system for Covid-19 tests.

That triggers alerts other people who were in close proximity, without disclosing the identity of the infected person or any other details. In such a case “[a]pp users are guided as to what to do next to optimise their wellbeing and prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus to others,” says the department of health.

The usefulness of the app will depend on how many people install it, whether they keep their Bluetooth radios turned on, and how quickly they report positive test results.

To track the virus’ stats, visit the Bing live COVID map here.

Let’s all work together to flatten the curve of COVID in South Africa.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Cape Town Concerned Over Non-adherence to COVID Safety Protocols Like Mask Wearing and Sanitizing. City Warns of Second Wave of Virus

Cape Town’s health department has expressed concerns over the increase in non-adherence to safety protocols, saying this could lead to a second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Mayoral committee member for community services and health, Zahid Badroodien, said some residents were no longer wearing face masks in public and social distancing protocols were being ignored by many businesses.

Badroodien feared the work that went into halting the spread of the coronavirus could soon be undone if citizens dropped their collective guard.

“Our environmental health practitioners are particularly concerned about the number of people who are going about their business in public without masks, as well as crowd management in shops, malls and other public amenities,” said Badroodien.

“Cape Town worked very hard to overcome the peak of the pandemic so we could start focusing on rebuilding lives, communities and the economy. All of this hard work will be undermined if we drop our collective guard.”

Over the past few months, the Covid-19 caseload and related fatalities have decreased significantly, with fewer cases registered every day.

On Tuesday, SA recorded 1,027 Covid-19 cases, pushing the number to 683,242. There were 87 deaths reported compared to 40 on Monday, and 15 were from the Western Cape. This brings the total number of deaths to 17,103.

Badroodien said a second wave could set Cape Town back from making progress in decreasing the number of deaths.

“I hear far too many anecdotes about the pandemic being a thing of the past. This is not true, particularly if one looks at the many countries where lockdowns have had to be reintroduced as a result of a second wave of infections,” he said.

“Cape Town and SA must take heed from these cautionary tales and do everything possible to mitigate the risk of a second wave here.

“We therefore urge the public to continue abiding by the health and hygiene protocols and to wear a mask at all times in public to help avoid a second wave of infections locally, or at the very least mitigate the impact thereof.”

Second wave plan

According to health minister Zweli Mkhize, a plan has been tabled should the country be hit with a second wave.

TimesLIVE reported that Mkhize told a webinar hosted by the SA Medical Association that while the worst was over, SA may still be facing a second surge.

He said the plan would follow the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines on how to deal with the second wave.

“Of course, we may still be facing a second surge. I think we all speculate about how likely that is because many of the countries that are overtaking SA are in a second surge. Whether it’s going to be like that in SA depends, of course, on how we deal with our containment measures,” said Mkhize.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

South Africa Moving to Level 1 Lock-down: What Are the Changes?

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that a number of South Africa’s lockdown regulations will be relaxed as the country moves to a level 1 lockdown from midnight on Sunday (20 September).

In a national address on Wednesday evening (16 September), the president said that the country has ‘withstood the storm’ in its fight against the coronavirus and that the data shows a clear downward trend in the country.

However, he cautioned that ‘by any measure we are still in the midst of a deadly epidemic’ and said that the most important task is ensuring that the country is not hit by a second wave of infections as is being seen internationally.

To help prevent a possible second wave, Ramaphosa said that the government will expand its testing to include more categories of people. He said that the government also plans to step up its contact tracing capabilities.

Ramaphosa said that South Africa is also participating in a World Health Organisation initiative to ensure access and distribution to a successful coronavirus vaccine at a lower cost. Local experts are also working on a vaccine.

The South African government has consistently reminded citizens to practice strict hygiene habits, and follow safety guidelines, which include wearing masks, washing and sanitizing hands, maintaining a social distance of at least 2 metres, and working from home whenever possible.

Eased restrictions

As Covid-19 cases decrease, the president said that the country will move to lockdown level 1 from midnight on Sunday (taking effect at midnight, or 00h01 on Monday), with restrictions eased in the following areas:

Gatherings

  • Gatherings will be allowed as long as the number of people do not exceed 50% of the normal capacity of a venue –  up to a maximum of 250 people for indoor gatherings and 500 people for outdoor gatherings;
  • Maximum capacity at funerals has been increased to 100 people;
  • Night vigils are still prohibited;
  • Venues such as gyms and recreational facilities have had limits increased to 50% of total capacity;
  • Existing restrictions on sporting events remain in place.

 

Travel

  • The government will gradually ease restrictions on international travel for business and leisure from 1 October – subject to containment measures. A list of permitted countries will be published and based on the latest scientific data;
  • International travel will only be allowed through the main border ports or through OR Tambo International, Cape Town International, or King Shaka International;
  • Travellers will need to provide a negative coronavirus certificate or will be put into quarantine at their own cost;
  • All travellers will be required to install the Coivd-19 alert level app.

 

Other changes

  • The evening curfew will apply between 00h00 and 04h00;
  • Alcohol for home consumption can be sold between 09h00 – 17h00 from Monday to Friday;
  • On-site consumption will be allowed subject to adherence to the curfew;
  • More government facilities will return.

Ramaphosa said that this will be the ‘new normal’ and that updated restrictions will be gazetted over the next few days, providing more clarity.

New economic recovery plan 

The move to level 1 comes after the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) has agreed to an action plan for South Africa’s economic recovery.

The plan is directed towards building confidence and placing South Africa on a path of investment and growth.

“Social partners have identified priority areas for rebuilding the economy as well as structural reforms and other programmes which will enable sustainable and inclusive growth with an intensive focus on job creation,” the presidency said.

While the final details of the plan will only be announced once it is finalised by cabinet, the presidency said that a core focus will be on addressing Eskom’s structural and funding problems.

“Social partners have also agreed on a social compact which commits government, business, labour and community to mobilising funding to address Eskom’s financial crisis in a sustainable manner – in return for an efficient, productive and fit-for-purpose Eskom that generates electricity at affordable prices for communities and industries,” it said.

Another key pillar of the plan will be infrastructure, with a massive development drive seen as key to driving recovery post-lockdown and creating jobs.

This comes after the presidency published a list of ‘priority infrastructure projects’, which is expected to pave the way for the beginning of private investment in a R2.3 trillion programme over the next decade.

To watch the President’s speech, click here.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

South African Health Minister’s Plea: Social Distance and Wear Your Masks. South Africans Get Lazy as COVID-19 Cases Continue to Skyrocket

Health Minister’s plea to South Africans

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has delivered an ‘urgent and important’ plea to all South Africans around the country’s flagging response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As Government, we have mobilized every resource, every faculty and wherewithal at our disposal to effect the necessary interventions. But government cannot manage this unilaterally.

“Every single South African now needs to focus on adhering to recommendations pertaining to non-pharmaceutical interventions,” he said.

“We are extremely concerned that fatigue seems to have set in and South Africans are letting down their guard at a time when the spread of infection is surging. We see poor or no social distancing in communities.

“Masks are being abandoned or not worn properly and there is laxity setting in around frequent hand-washing.”

The minister said that this will directly influence the rise in numbers in the next two weeks. “We must all appreciate that there is a direct causal link between the surge of cases and our ability, or inability, to ad- here to these very basic principles.

“We do not have a vaccine. We do not have a cure. Our ability to break the cycle of infection depends on our willingness to remain focused and disciplined and take non-pharmaceutical interventions seriously.

“We can beat this pandemic together. We have already proved this during the lockdown,” he said.

“It remains in each and every citizen’s hands to admonish family members, colleagues, friends. who refuse to adhere to measures that protect lives by limiting the spread of this virus.”

Case numbers soar

South Africa is now ranked 5th in the world for the most COVID cases. You can view the Microsoft case number tracker here.

Before this article was originally published (July 20, 2020), the minister announced that there were a total of 350,879 cases of coronavirus in South Africa.

An update: as at July 31, 2020, cases in SA stand at 482,169.

Quarantine recommendations

Mkhize also published a new directive which details the self-isolation and quarantine criteria that should be followed for people returning to South Africa.

In the context of the regulations, these criteria are specific to people re-entering the country from abroad. However, they also provide clarity around what is expected of people who are self-isolating at home.

These criteria include the following:

  • A separate well-ventilated bedroom with a bathroom and toilet, or a residence that is not shared with persons who are not subject to quarantine;
  • Meals should be served in the room in disposable utensils or utensils that are separate and are washed properly if there are persons who are not subject to quarantine;
  • Support from friends or family that can facilitate the drop off of food and medicine at the gate if they are not able to make use of online shopping facilities and contactless deliveries;
  • A thermometer that will allow him or her to measure his or her temperature daily;
  • Access to the internet and a phone that allows the daily reporting of symptoms;
  • Access to a private physician that he or she can contact should he or she require medical advice or care; and
  • A contact number where he or she can be reached during the period of self – quarantine or self -isolation.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

South Africa to Remain on Lock-down Level 3, With Alcohol Ban and Curfews Returning

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the reintroduction of a number of lockdown restrictions as the country grapples with rising coronavirus cases.

In a national address on Sunday evening (12 July), Ramaphosa said that the country is now expecting a surge of infections and that the ‘storm is now upon us’.

He noted that the country has reported a total of 260,242 confirmed cases, with more than 12,000 new cases being reported every day. This means that there are effectively 500 new cases being reported every hour.

He added that more than 4,079 fatalities have been reported in the country to date. The president said that Gauteng is fast approaching 100,000 cases, while the Eastern Cape is approaching 50,000 cases. The Western Cape is soon set to hit 80,000 cases.

He said that the country’s provinces will see different ‘peaks’ in coronavirus cases between the end of July, to September.

“While the surge in infections is expected, the force and speed which they have progressed have quite understandably caused concern amongst us,” he said.

“The coronavirus storm is far fiercer and more destructive than any other we have experienced before.”

Restrictions

While most South Africans have taken steps to limit the spread of the coronavirus, president Ramaphosa said that there are some that continue to ignore regulations, and have failed to take steps to protect themselves and others.

This includes people who have organised parties and fail to wear masks in public places. The president said that there have also been a number of funerals with more than 50 people.

To this end, Ramaphosa said that the country’s National coronavirus Command Council deliberated on whether to return all or parts of the country to a higher lockdown level.

However, it noted that this was unlikely to decrease the number of coronavirus cases, while causing untold harm to the economy.

Instead, Ramaphosa said that government will be ‘tightening’ existing regulations including:

  • The country will remain at lockdown level 3;
  • The wearing of cloth masks will be mandatory including stricter rules around the wearing of masks at workplaces and while travelling. Further regulations on this issue are set to be gazetted at a later date;
  • Taxis taking long trips will have to adhere to 70% occupancy. Taxis taking shorter trips may increase capacity to 100%, subject to strict health protocols;
  • The sale, dispensing and distributing of alcohol has been suspended with immediate effect;
  • A curfew will be put in place between 21h00 and 04h00, except for people who travel for work, or require urgent medical assistance. This curfew will come into effect from Monday (13 July);
  • Parks will be opened for exercise, but will not be allowed for gathering purposes;
  • Family visits and other social visits will remain prohibited.

President Ramaphosa added that the national state of disaster has been extended to 15 August as part of these new lockdown measures.

To read the President’s full speech, click here.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].