President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned South Africans against what he describes as ‘coronavirus fatigue’, saying the virus is still present. He addressed the nation on Wednesday regarding the South African government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ramaphosa says the difficult truth is that the virus is far from over.
South Africa has recorded a total of 742 394 COVID-19 cases, with the death toll standing at 20 011. The country has, however, recorded a 92% recovery rate.
The President says the pandemic is worsening across the globe.
“The world has just recorded its highest number of weekly new cases since the start of the pandemic and the highest number of weekly deaths. More than 51 million people have been infected globally, and at least 1.2 million people have died. Many countries are in the midst of a second wave of infections, which has often been more severe than the first.”
Ramaphosa says South Africa has endured the worst of the COVID-19 storm. Infections have declined from 12 000 to 2 000 daily new cases.
“At the height of the pandemic, in July, we were recording around 12 000 new infections a day. For more than two months now, the number of new infections has remained relatively stable at below 2 000 a day. The number of deaths has been declining steadily, as has the number of people requiring hospitalisation. The total number of new hospital admissions has declined for the 14th consecutive week.”
The president paid homage to hospital workers, community workers and other frontline workers. He commended their courage in the fight against COVID-19.
Preventing a resurgence
Ramaphosa says as long as people observe all the necessary health protocols and remaining restrictions, there is no need to go back to a higher lockdown level.
He says the international community has commended the country for how it handled the pandemic.
However, he says in order to prevent a resurgence in cases, attention must be given to certain areas, including the Eastern Cape. The province recorded 50% more cases last week than it did the previous week.
“And the total number of new cases in the last 14 days was around 145% higher than the previous 14 days. These increases are being driven by massive spikes in the Nelson Mandela Metro and the Sarah Baartman District in particular,” says the President.
Ramaphosa says poor adherence to social distancing, wearing masks and poor hygiene will allow for rising infections.
The President says government has decided to implement a resurgence plan as many people continue to move between provinces. He says they will closely monitor developments in areas that are experiencing higher than average rates of new infections.
The President has also expressed concern as the country approaches the festive season, as there will be more travelling and social gatherings. He has urged people to adhere to COVID-19 protocols and not let their guard down.
He has also urged people to download the COVID-19 Alert SA mobile app.
Ramaphosa says an effective and safe vaccine is our greatest defence against COVID-19.
“Earlier this week, the world witnessed a game-changer in the world of science regarding the development of a vaccine. This is the first evidence that an effective vaccine against a coronavirus is possible. And that the preliminary data from the research suggests that it may be more than 90% effective. This changes our perspective of the future of the coronavirus pandemic. This development brings new hope in our fight against this virus.”
He says South Africa is collaborating with several multinational pharmaceutical companies to obtain a safe and effective vaccine.
An estimated $12 billion and 750 million doses of an effective vaccine will be needed in Africa.
Ramaphosa, in his capacity as a Chairperson of the African Union, established the COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team to lead the effort for the vaccine.
“South Africa has also been appointed as a co-chair of the global ACT-A initiative that is facilitating access to innovative interventions, including vaccines, for all countries. Countries are going to have to allocate funding so that there can be access to vaccines to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus,” says Ramaphosa.
He says Johnson & Johnson has entered into a preliminary agreement with a local company, Aspen Pharmacare, to manufacture and package its candidate vaccine.
“Aspen has the capacity to manufacture 300 million doses of the candidate vaccine at its Nelson Mandela Bay plant. This is a life-saving medical product that will be needed across the world, which will be manufactured by South African workers.”
He says Biovac, a local biopharmaceutical company that is in partnership with the South African government, is in advanced talks with an international vaccine manufacturer that would also enable it to locally manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine to ensure sufficient supply for our country and the continent.
In April, the government introduced an economic and social relief package to limit the effects of the pandemic on companies, workers, households and communities. However, as more economic activities resume, Ramaphosa says the government has moved the attention from these emergency measures towards an ambitious plan of economic reconstruction.
The government has, however, extended its special COVID-19 Grant for a further three months, to January 2021. It has also extended the COVID-19 UIF Ters benefit scheme by another month.
The President has made the following amendments to the Level 1 regulations:
Hours on the sale of alcohol have been amended to normal trading hours, subject to COVID-19 protocols.
International travel to all countries will be opened subject to the necessary health protocols and the presentation of a negative COVID-19 certificate.
Honouring lives lost
Ramaphosa says a lot of lives have been lost during the pandemic. He says it would be fitting that, during the 16 Day of Activism against Violence on Women and Children, which he labelled as a second pandemic, the country honours those that lost their lives.
He has asked the nation, from 25 – 29 November from 6am to 6pm, to wear black armbands or other signs of mourning to signify our respect for those who have departed.
He also paid tribute to the late outgoing Auditor-General, Kimi Makwetu, who died in hospital at the age of 54. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018.