South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday called out the stigmatisation of people who have tested positive for Covid-19, urging citizens to be guided by facts and not rumours.
In a weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa also said his government was attending to staff shortages at clinics and hospitals across the country, in addition to the scarcity of personal protective equipment.
South Africa to date has 138,134 confirmed cases of the coronavirus first reported in China last December, by far the highest tally in Africa. Of these, 2,456 people have died, while 68,925 have recovered.
“One of the challenges that has emerged in our country is the stigmatisation of people who have proven positive with coronavirus,” Ramaphosa wrote in his newsletter.
“There have been disturbing reports of individuals being ostracised from their communities and of communities protesting against coronavirus patients being admitted to local hospitals and clinics. This must stop.”
He said just as South Africa had come together to promote the acceptance of people living with HIV/AIDS, it should also show understanding, tolerance, kindness, empathy and compassion for those infected with the coronavirus.
“We know what causes the virus and what we can do to protect ourselves from becoming infected. We know we have to maintain social distancing, to self-isolate if we have come into contact with those infected and to present to a hospital if we have symptoms,” the president added.
“We must continue to be guided by facts and not rumours.”
Ramaphosa noted that scientists and medical advisers had warned the rate of infections would rise as South Africa moved towards its peak, but added:
“It will certainly come down … We shall overcome this virus and rebuild our society.