The next phase of our national response to coronavirus: Ramaphosa

South Africa will focus on ramping up screening, testing and its case management programme, as it enters its peak period of combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is according to president Cyril Ramaphosa, in his weekly column: From The Desk of the President.

The country has seen a spike in daily infections over the past 72 hours, moving past 10,000 confirmed cases on Sunday evening.

Health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize said in a statement that the government is also conducting more tests – to a total of 341,336 thus far.

“Our goal is to steadily reduce the alert level by keeping the rate of infection down and getting our health system ready for the inevitable increase in cases,” Ramaphosa said. Since the beginning of May, the country has operated under level 4 lockdown.

As part of the phased recovery of the economy, companies in certain specified industries have been able to resume part or all of their operations.

The president said that while there is still much about the pandemic that is unknown, “experts now agree that the virus will remain a threat to global public health for some time. We must therefore be prepared to continue to live with the coronavirus among us for a year or even more,” he said.

The president said that the success in overcoming the coronavirus will ultimately be determined by the changes made in our behaviour.

Ramaphosa acknowledged that people have become frustrated with the curtailment of their personal freedom.

“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,” the president stressed.

Next phase

The next phase of the country’s response is as much about continuity as it is about change or innovation, said Ramaphosa.

“We will step up our 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.”

The president said that as the restrictions on economic activity and daily life are eased, it is vital that all South Africans maintain that firm sense of personal responsibility.

He said that imposing a nation-wide lockdown gave the country a strategic advantage. “It bought us valuable time to prepare our health system and put in place containment measures. This has slowed transmission and saved lives,” he said.

“The transition to the next phase of the coronavirus response, that of recovery, will 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 restrictions must not result in careless behaviour by individuals or reckless practices by businesses keen to resume activity at the cost of human health,” president Ramaphosa said.

Read: Cape Town and Joburg may need tighter restrictions: Mkhize

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The next phase of our national response to coronavirus: Ramaphosa