SOUTH Africa President, Cyril Ramaposa has revised the national lockdown to Level three after wide consultations with various stakeholders.
By Michael Gwarisa
Addressing the nation, President Ramaposa said the lockdown has been effective.
While the nation-wide lockdown has been effective, it cannot be sustained indefinitely. We introduced the five-level COVID-19 alert system to manage the gradual easing of the lockdown. This risk-adjusted approach is guided by several criteria, including the level of infections and rate of transmission, the capacity of health facilities, the extent of the implementation of public health interventions and the economic and social impact of continued restrictions.
“It is on the basis of these criteria – and following consultation – that Cabinet has determined that the alert level for the whole country should be lowered from level 4 to level 3 with effect from 1 June 2020,” said President Ramaposa.
Its been 10 weeks since South Africa declared a national state of disaster in response to the coronavirus pandemic and since then, several unprecedented measures – including a nation-wide lockdown – to contain the spread of the virus have been implemented.
“I am sorry that these measures imposed a great hardship on you – restricting your right to move freely, to work and eke out a livelihood. As a result of the measures we imposed – and the sacrifices you made – we have managed to slow the rate of infection and prevent our health facilities from being overwhelmed.
“We have used the time during the lockdown to build up an extensive public health response and prepare our health system for the anticipated surge in infections. Now, as we enter the next phase of our struggle against the coronavirus, it is once again your actions that will determine the fate of our nation.
“As individuals, as families, as communities, it is you who will determine whether we experience the devastation that so many other countries have suffered, or whether we can spare our people, our society and our economy from the worst effects of this pandemic.”
He also applauded South Africans for observing measures to contain the lockdown.
“We know that the most effective defence against this virus is also the simplest. Washing our hands regularly, wearing a face mask, keeping at least a 1.5 metre distance from other people, avoiding touching our faces with unwashed hands and cleaning surfaces we touch regularly.
“It is through diligently and consistently observing these basic practices that we will overcome this pandemic.”
There are currently 22,583 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa. Around half of these people have recovered, either because their symptoms have been mild or because of the care they have received in our hospitals.
“Tragically, some 429 people have died. To their families, friends, and colleagues, we offer our deepest sympathies. Your loss is our loss. There are now just over 11,000 active coronavirus cases in the country. Of these, 842 patients are in hospital and 128 of these are in intensive care.
“The number of infected people could have been much higher had we not acted when we did to impose drastic containment measures. We are consequently in a much better position than many other countries were at this stage in the progression of the disease. As a result of the drastic containment measures we have taken, we have been able to strengthen our health response.”
South Africa has conducted 580,000 to date coronavirus tests and more than 12 million screenings. There are nearly 60,000 community health workers who have been going door-to-door across the country to identify possible cases of coronavirus.
“In preparation for the expected increase in infections, around 20,000 hospital beds have been, and are being, repurposed for COVID-19 cases, and 27 field hospitals are being built around the country. A number of these hospitals are ready to receive coronavirus patients.
“At the same time, we have experienced several challenges, including a shortage of diagnostic medical supplies as a result of the great demand for these supplies across the world. This has contributed to lengthy turnaround times for coronavirus testing, which in turn has had an impact on the effectiveness of our programmes.”