South Africa will roll out a mass screening program for the coronavirus and dispatch about 10,000 field workers to check up on people in their homes, the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to do so.
“We are now entering a new phase in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said Monday, four days into a 21-day lockdown that has shuttered businesses and mines. The army has been deployed to enforce the lockdown and alcohol and cigarette sales have been banned.
The field workers will refer people with symptoms to local clinics or mobile clinics for testing and those with severe symptoms will be transferred to hospitals, Ramaphosa said. People who are infected but show no or moderate symptoms will remain in isolation at home or at a facility provided by the government.
South Africa has more confirmed infections than any other nation on the continent, with its tally now standing at 1,326 and the death toll at three. More than 36,000 people have been tested so far on a population of 59 million.
While most citizens are complying with the lockdown, the government is concerned that some people continue to ignore the dangers posed by the virus, according to Ramaphosa. The government is considering additional measures to alleviate the hardship caused by the restrictions.
“This is unchartered territory for us all,” Ramaphosa said. “We have never experienced a situation like this before and a number of mistakes will be made, but we ask for our people’s understanding that all this is being done for the good of everyone.”