JOHANNESBURG – South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has announced he has gone into quarantine after coming into contact with a dinner guest who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Ramaphosa came into contact with a guest at a dinner of 35 people in Johannesburg last weekend, the president's spokesman said Wednesday. The dinner was to raise funds to support South Africa's schools.
“The event adhered stringently to COVID-19 protocols and directives on screening, social distancing and the wearing of masks," acting spokesman Tyrone Seale said. “As was the case with all guests, the president himself removed his mask only when dining and addressing the guests.”
Ramaphosa is not showing any symptoms and is working at home, he said. The guest who tested positive is getting medical care, he said.
Ramaphosa learned of his possible exposure Tuesday night, after he had unveiled a statue at Johannesburg's O.R. Tambo International airport and later answered questions from parliament in an online briefing.
Ramaphosa's quarantine comes as South Africa is experiencing a rise COVID-19 cases. The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in South Africa has risen over the past two weeks from 2.72 new cases per 100,000 people on Oct. 13 to 2.78 new cases per 100,000 people on Oct. 27. South Africa reported 1,092 new infections and 48 deaths recorded in the last 24 hours. However, South Africa's 7-day rolling average of daily deaths has decreased over the past two weeks, going from 0.22 deaths per 100,000 people on Oct. 13 to 0.10 deaths per 100,000 people on Oct. 27.
With nearly 718,000 cumulative confirmed cases, South Africa accounts for more than 40% of all the more than 1.7 million cases reported by Africa's 54 countries, representing a population of 1.3 billion people.
Answering questions in parliamentary Tuesday, Ramaphosa said his government is closely watching the slow resurgence of COVID-19, after the country passed its first peak of cases and deaths in late July. He said his government was not considering imposing another hard lockdown over fears of a second wave of infections.
Ramaphosa urged all South Africans to continue wearing masks and washing their hands.
Last weekend police closed down several nightclubs in Johannesburg that were operating after the regulated curfew closure time of midnight, and where patrons were reportedly not wearing masks or keeping a social distance. Several new infections in Cape Town were traced back to a popular nightclub where it is believed patrons were not adhering to COVID-19 safety measures, according to reports in local media.
To slow the spread of COVID-19, South Africa imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in April and May, shutting down nearly all economic activity, including bans on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes. The sweeping restrictions succeeded in slowing the spread of the disease, but at a high economic cost, causing unemployment to rise to 42%.
More than 2 million jobs have been lost during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic in South Africa, a country of 60 million people.
On Thursday, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced a financial bailout of the equivalent of $639 million for the state-owned South African Airways but spending cuts elsewhere to help finance the government's $31 billion stimulus expenditure, including relief grants for 6 million of South Africa's poor.
Mboweni warned that South Africa's rising debt levels are a threat to economic growth, with the country facing an economic decline of more than 7.2% this year. The economic contraction is expected to cause the country's tax revenue to drop by an estimated $528 million, said Mboweni who announced a pay freeze for public servants for the next three years.