South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks during the opening of the 33rd African Union (AU) summit of heads of state and government at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 9, 2020. (Photo by Michael Tewelde/Xinhua)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has tested negative for the novel coronavirus, his office said on Thursday.

The president submitted for testing as a precautionary measure upon the advice of his physicians on Tuesday and received his results Wednesday night, presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko said.

As head of state and chair of the National Command Council (NCC) tasked to deal with coronavirus, Ramaphosa has a rigorous schedule for public engagements and has, during the course of the last few weeks, held numerous meetings with a wide cross-section of people from all walks of life.

In line with international guidelines as well as those of the national Department of Health, testing is recommended if people experience symptoms, live in or recently travelled to an area with ongoing spread of coronavirus, or have been in close contact with someone known to have the virus, known as COVID-19, Diko said.

The Presidency has deemed it necessary to make the test results public to reassure the nation that the president is in good health and continues with his duties, Diko said.

This came hours before the country goes into a national lockdown which starts midnight Thursday.

Under the lockdown, most shops will be closed except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services, including the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), supermarkets, petrol stations and health care providers.

Individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances, such as to seek medical care, buy food, medicine and other supplies or collect a social grant.

Up till Wednesday, South Africa’s coronavirus cases surged to 709, an increase of 155 from Tuesday’s announcement, the highest rise in a single day since the country reported its first case on March 5. Enditem

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