The experience of the 114 South Africans who were evacuated from Wuhan in China demonstrates the effectiveness – and the necessity – of a state of lockdown, says president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Writing in his weekly open letter to the public, Ramaphosa said that it was due to the drastic actions that the Chinese government took to contain the disease in the city of Wuhan, that all South Africans were able to return uninfected and healthy.
Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in the province of Hubei, reported more than 50,000 infections. After more than two months after stringent lockdown measures were put in place, the province has had fewer than 20 new cases in the past two weeks.
“The containment of the disease in Wuhan City, in Hubei Province and in other places across China required a massive and extraordinary effort,” said Ramaphosa.
“It involved drastic restrictions on daily life and is having a severe impact on the Chinese economy. Other countries that have taken similar measures are having greater success in managing the spread of the disease than countries that have been slower to respond.”
Ramaphosa said it is now ‘abundantly clear’ that the most effective way for a society to contain the spread of the disease is for the population to remain at home and physically isolated from each other for at least several weeks.
He added that it is important that this lockdown and all other emergency measures are both strictly adhered to and consistently enforced.
“As the South Africans from Wuhan can testify, such restrictions on daily life, on movement and on ordinary human contact are extremely difficult to endure.
“In the South African context, a lockdown brings additional hardship and strain, and we are doing everything within our means to lessen the impact on our people.
“But the lesson from the South Africans in Wuhan is that a lockdown works. It shows that if we strictly observe the rules in place to stop the virus spreading, we will be able to bring infection rates down. It shows that if we cooperate with health authorities in doing what we have to do, we won’t be just saving our own lives but those around us too.”
Ramaphosa said that the story of the South African returnees from Wuhan should give encouragement and hope in the difficult weeks that lie ahead.
“Their story tells us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that if we stay the course, that if we remain disciplined and respect the lockdown, that if we work together, we will overcome,” he said.