Ramaphosa warns 'restive citizens' of a new Covid-19 reality, for a year at least

11 May 2020 - 10:35 By Aphiwe deklerk
SA is in for a long haul in the fight against coronavirus, warns President Cyril Ramaphosa.
SA is in for a long haul in the fight against coronavirus, warns President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged South Africans to be prepared for a new reality in which the fight against Covid-19 will be part of their daily lives.

In his weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa said South Africans should be prepared to live with the virus for a year or even more.

“Our success in overcoming the coronavirus will ultimately be determined by the changes we make in our behaviour.

“Even after lockdown – especially after lockdown – we will still need to observe social distancing, wear face masks, wash hands regularly and avoid contact with other people. We will need to reorganise workplaces, schools, universities, colleges and other public places to limit transmission,” said Ramaphosa.

He said South Africans will need to adapt to new ways of worshipping, socialising, exercising and meeting that minimise opportunities for the virus to spread.

“This is a reality that countries across the world are having to confront.”

SA is now on stage four of the lockdown and while this means some easing of the regulations, Ramaphosa has come under pressure to reopen the economy and end the lockdown.

This is despite the increase in the number of deaths and those who test positive for the virus. As of Sunday, South Africa had 10,015 cases and 194 deaths.

Ramaphosa said countries that have started easing their lockdown restrictions are doing so tentatively and with extreme caution.

“Like us, they have had to heed calls for economic activity to resume.

Like our citizens, their populations are restive and frustrated with the curtailment of personal freedoms.

“At the same time, health experts around the globe are warning of a ‘second wave’ of infections as public life resumes. A number of countries including Germany, Iran and China have seen a rise in new infections since they relaxed certain restrictions.

“We will be no different. We can and must expect infections to rise as more people return to work. We must accept the reality, prepare for it and adapt to it.”

He said the next phase of the national response was as much about continuity as about change or innovation.

Ramaphosa said the country would step up its intensive screening, testing and case-management programme.

“We will introduce new measures to make contact tracing more effective. We will need to implement mass sanitisation of workplaces, public transport and other spaces,” he said.

Ramaphosa said the transition to the next phase of the coronavirus response would be more difficult than the present one.

“The risk of infection outbreaks will increase. The demands on our clinics and hospitals and medical personnel will grow. That is why easing the lockdown must not result in careless behaviour by individuals, or reckless practices by businesses keen to resume activity at the cost of human health,” he said.

In the same way that we had to change our behaviour to prevent the spread of HIV, now we need to change our behaviour to stop the coronavirus.”