South Africa’s best and only defences against the coronavirus: Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa has addressed the concerns around South Africa’s level 4 lockdown restrictions, noting that the regulations are based on scientific evidence and international practices.

Writing in his weekly open letter to the nation, Ramaphosa said that the country has ‘not nearly reached the peak of infections’ and that all the scientific models show that the infection rate will continue to rise at a much faster rate in the next few months.

“That is why the easing of the lockdown needs to be gradual and cautious,” he said.

“It is for this reason that many regulations need to remain in place and why it is absolutely essential that people observe them.”

Ramaphosa added that the government’s overriding objective is the preservation of life.

Social distancing and proper hygiene are still our best and only defences in this struggle.

“This is what informs the regulations we have put in place for level 4 of our response. Our considerations are based on empirical evidence, scientific and economic data and international best practice.”

Constitutionally fair

Citing the Constitutional Court case on the death penalty, Ramaphosa said that the rights to life and dignity are the most important of all human rights and the source of all other personal rights.

“The regulations we have put in place are founded on that commitment to life and dignity, and which justify – in these extreme circumstances – temporary restrictions on other rights, like freedom of movement and association,” he said.

Ramaphosa noted that this was similar to restrictions introduced by other countries which have also introduced curfews and limitations on movement.

“Containment and prevention measures similar to ours are in place in a number of countries.

“For example, alcohol sales during lockdown have been either restricted or banned in a number of territories and by local governments, including parts of Mexico, Hong Kong and Greenland, which last month imposed a ban on alcohol sales during lockdown to limit infection but also ‘to curb violence against women and children.”

However, Ramaphosa acknowledged that the continued ban on cigarette sales is ‘controversial’ and noted that the decision was made after careful consideration.

“Every regulation we have put in place has been carefully considered. Along the way there has been consultation with medical experts, various constituencies and different industries. We have been guided by international bodies and the experience of other countries,” he said.

“The reality is that we are sailing in uncharted waters. There is still a great deal about the epidemiology of the virus that is unknown. It is better to err on the side of caution than to pay the devastating price of a lapse in judgment in future.”

Ramaphosa added that the government continues to consider the concerns of ordinary South Africans.

“Listening to our people and their concerns during this period has been one of the distinguishing features of how we as government have managed this pandemic.

“We continue to listen to the concerns of our people and are prepared to make adjustments that balance people’s concerns about the challenges they face with the need to save lives,” he said.

Read: These are Joburg and Cape Town’s coronavirus hotspots

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South Africa’s best and only defences against the coronavirus: Ramaphosa