Fighting Covid-19 is the ANC's top priority in 2021: Ramaphosa

South Africans need to 'actively counter the spread of disinformation relating to Covid-19 and unfounded conspiracy theories about the virus', said Ramaphosa

08 January 2021 - 20:29
By Amanda Khoza
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa.

Topping the list of the ANC’s priorities for 2021 is overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic, party president Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday.

“The virus is ever-present and it threatens the health and wellbeing of everyone in our country. It threatens livelihoods and undermines our efforts to rebuild the economy and create jobs,” said Ramaphosa, who was addressing ANC members virtually during the party’s 109th anniversary celebration.

The traditionally massive annual event was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the country currently battling a second wave and soaring numbers of infections and deaths.

“SA is in the midst of a second wave that could prove deadlier than the first unless we all play our part to curb and defeat this virus. We have to intensify our efforts to promote responsible behaviour, such as [cancelling the] the January 8 statement ...” Ramaphosa said.

He added that physical distancing, washing or sanitising hands, wearing face masks appropriately and adhering to other protocols was vital.

He said the government would continue to strengthen the state's health system and sustain community health interventions, such as mass screening, testing and tracing.

“To overcome Covid-19 we are preparing to implement a mass vaccination programme that reaches all South Africans as appropriate quantities of an effective and suitable vaccine are procured. This programme will initially prioritise health workers and other front-line personnel such as teachers and policemen and -women, the elderly and people with comorbidities.

“We will progressively reach all South Africans through a mass vaccination campaign to achieve herd immunity and prevent ongoing transmission,” said Ramaphosa.

He said South Africans needed to “actively counter the spread of disinformation relating to Covid-19 and unfounded conspiracy theories about the virus, its treatment and the development of vaccines”.

Above all, he said, citizens must continue to work together as a united nation to confront the grave coronavirus threat

“Our focus throughout must be on saving lives and protecting livelihoods.”

He announced that the social relief measures introduced by the government in April last year — including the temporary top-up of social grants and the special Covid-19 grant for unemployed people — would be coming to an end due to limited resources.

“We need to intensify other poverty alleviation measures alongside the January 8 statement ... This year, the ANC, government and broader society will need to continue discussions on the desirability and viability of a basic income grant to provide a social safety net to the poor.”

He said Covid-19 was “a pandemic that has severely damaged our economy”, hampered door-to-door engagements, organisational meetings as well as the January 8 statement.

“Due to the necessary restrictions that are in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus — and the need at this time to exercise utmost caution — we are not undertaking our traditional door-to-door engagements, community meetings and January 8 rallies.” 

He noted that temporary lockdown levels that were placed on the availability of alcohol under the state of disaster regulations demonstrated the extent to which abuse of alcohol fuels violence, trauma and reckless behaviour and places a burden on our health system and emergency services.

“We must take measures to reduce the abuse of alcohol through a combination of legislative and other measures and community mobilisation,” he said.

On a continental level, he said SA had been instrumental in forging more effective collaboration among African countries in tackling the economic effects of Covid-19.

“We have worked with other countries to develop effective health responses and ensure that all African countries have access to essential medical supplies and, ultimately, a vaccine. The ANC and the government it leads will continue to advocate for equitable access to Covid-19 vaccine,” he said.

Ramaphosa paid tribute to South Africans, some of whom were prominent ANC members, who lost their lives during the pandemic.