March 15 — President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster and announced sweeping measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, including travel restrictions on foreigners from hard-hit countries, a ban on mass gatherings of more than 100 people, and the closure of schools. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation following a special cabinet meeting on the Covd-19 pandemic, at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, March 15 2020. Picture: PHIL MAGAKOE/AFP
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation following a special cabinet meeting on the Covd-19 pandemic, at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, March 15 2020. Picture: PHIL MAGAKOE/AFP

March 15 — The US Federal Reserve cut interest rates for the second time in less than two weeks on Sunday in another emergency move to help shore up the US economy amid the rapidly escalating global coronavirus pandemic. In a statement, the central bank said it was cutting rates to a target range of 0%-0.25%. The Fed already cut interest rates by 0.5 of a percentage point on March 3 at an emergency meeting, the first rate cut outside a regularly scheduled policy meeting since the financial crisis in 2008.

US Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell arrives to speak to reporters after the Federal Reserve cut interest rates in an emergency move designed to shield the world's largest economy from the impact of the coronavirus, in Washington, US. Picture: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE
US Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell arrives to speak to reporters after the Federal Reserve cut interest rates in an emergency move designed to shield the world's largest economy from the impact of the coronavirus, in Washington, US. Picture: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE

March 16More African nations confirmed their first cases or shut borders amid fears of the disease's impact on fragile health systems. Thirty African countries — more than half the continent — are now treating patients with coronavirus, after Tanzania, Liberia, Benin and Somalia said they had registered their first cases. Finance minister Tito Mboweni said SA may need to raid other government departments for funds to fight the disease. 

Travellers wearing face masks wait to get their temperature checked at the border post with Kenya in Namanga, Tanzania, March 16 2020. Picture: FILBERT RWEYEMAMU / AFP
Travellers wearing face masks wait to get their temperature checked at the border post with Kenya in Namanga, Tanzania, March 16 2020. Picture: FILBERT RWEYEMAMU / AFP

March 17 — Russian scientists have begun to test vaccine prototypes for the new coronavirus, and plan to present the most effective one by June, a laboratory chief at a state biotech institute has said. 

A woman stands in front of empty shelves in a local supermarket in Moscow, Russia, March 17 2020. Picture: NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP
A woman stands in front of empty shelves in a local supermarket in Moscow, Russia, March 17 2020. Picture: NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP

March 18 —  Farmers around Barcelona metropolitan area  worked at full capacity to ensure the supply of fresh products to green markets and grocery stores. The Spanish government said it would mobilise €30bn of crisis measures to help companies and workers affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Farm workers wear protective masks as they select artichokes outside Barcelona, Spain, March 18, 2020. Picture: DAVID RAMOS/AFP
Farm workers wear protective masks as they select artichokes outside Barcelona, Spain, March 18, 2020. Picture: DAVID RAMOS/AFP

March 19 — The Reserve Bank cut interest rates by twice as much as economists predicted as it joined a global fight against the coronavirus outbreak that is threatening to plunge the world economy into a recession. Governor Lesetja Kganyago and the rest of the monetary policy committee (MPC) decided to reduce the repo rate by a full percentage point, the deepest cut in more than a decade, as they dramatically revised their inflation and growth forecasts downwards, saying GDP for the whole of 2020 would contract 0.2%.

Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago at the Reserve Bank head offices in Pretoria. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago at the Reserve Bank head offices in Pretoria. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

March 19 — The Bank of England cut interest rates to 0.1%, its second emergency rate cut in just over a week, and ramped up its bond-buying programme on Thursday.

A couple sit on the Central Line tube wearing protective face masks while reading a newspaper on in London, the UK, March 19 2020. Picture: JUSTIN SETTERFIELD/GETTY IMAGES
A couple sit on the Central Line tube wearing protective face masks while reading a newspaper on in London, the UK, March 19 2020. Picture: JUSTIN SETTERFIELD/GETTY IMAGES