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South Africa: 'National State of Disaster,' President Says

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation Address in Cape Town, Feb. 13, 2020.

South Africa has declared a “national state of disaster” because of COVID-19.

“Given the scale and the speed at which the virus is spreading, it is now clear that no country is immune from the disease or will be spared its severe impact,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sunday.

South Africa has 61 cases of the disease. Ramphosa said 50 of the cases were contracted by people who had traveled abroad, but the rest were contracted within South Africa. “It is concerning that we are now dealing with internal transmission of the virus,” he said.

The president said the disease could have a “potentially lasting” effect on South Africa.

In an effort to limit South Africans’ exposure to the coronavirus, South Africa has imposed a travel ban on foreign nationals from high-risk countries. Those countries include Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China. The ban will begin March 18, the president said.

In addition, South Africa closed 35 of its 53 land ports Monday.