The Department of Health has suspended visiting hours at all public health facilities in the country with immediate effect amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a statement, the department says the decision was taken in light of the 21-day national lockdown imposed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

It also comes as the number of infections in South Africa continues to rise.

There are now 1 187 confirmed cases in the country.

Health workers are among those infected, with one Free State doctor in the Intensive Care Unit.

Minister Zweli Mkhize however says none of the medics were infected by patients.

He says they had come into contact with families, friends and colleagues who had contracted the virus.

The health department also attribute the decision to the vulnerability of hospitalised patients.

“To keep patients and staff safe, members of the public will be unable to visit patients admitted in our hospitals, clinics or community health centres,” Head of Health Dr SC Tshabalala says.

Tshabalala says there may be unique cases where Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) will be allowed to use their own discretion.

“There may be unique instances where the CEO will be required to use their own discretion on essential and compassionate grounds. However, this is still limited to one visitor limited to 15 minutes.”

These unique cases include where a parent or guardian supporting a child or critical patient.

The visitors, however, will be required to undergo screening before coming into contact with patients.

They will also be required to clean their hands and use face masks.

In the video below, President Cyril Rapamhosa imposes SA’s three-week lockdown: 

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