AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER
TWO days after South Africa relaxed its strict COVID-19 restrictions because of declining infections, its president Cyril Ramaphosa has issued a stern warning.
“It’s too soon to celebrate. We are still very much in the middle of a deadly pandemic that has taken over 11,000 lives in South Africa alone. At more than half a million confirmed cases, we still have the fifth-highest number of infections in the world. And there is always a chance of a resurgence of the disease,” Ramaphosa said.
From Tuesday, South Africans will, among others, be able to buy alcohol, cigarettes, travel in between provinces and visit families.
Ramaphosa warned South Africa, who have started to celebrate their restored freedoms, that what countries such as New Zealand went through, was a reminder that South Africans must not let their guards down.
He said: “If we ever need a stark reminder of the need for vigilance, we should look to recent events thousands of kilometres away in New Zealand. Three months since the country was declared coronavirus-free, New Zealand is once again under lockdown. Although the latest outbreak was of relatively few cases, the government swiftly re-imposed lockdown restrictions.
“Similar restrictions have had to be reimposed in several parts of Europe as they experience a ‘second wave’ of infections. These experiences show just how swiftly things can change when it comes to COVID-19.
It is a wake-up call to any among us who may harbour illusions that we are even close to seeing the end of this grave public health emergency.”
Ramaphosa emphasised that while infection rates have gone down and the recovery rate shot up, moving South African to level two in terms of the National Disaster ACt comes with increased risk of transmission.
“We now need to manage this risk and ensure the gains we have made thus far in containing the pandemic’s spread are not reversed. The greatest threat to the health of the nation right now is complacency. It may be that we are now permitted to meet friends and family, to visit entertainment venues, to travel for leisure and to consume alcohol in restaurants, bars and taverns. But as the old adage goes, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” he said.
He said the ‘second wave’ of infections that several other countries have experienced remained an ever-present possibility for South Africa.
“This pandemic is a matter of life and death. We need to adapt and we need to be vigilant. In the days, weeks and months that lie ahead, we must urgently focus our efforts on recovery. Our economy and our society has suffered a great deal. As we return to economic activity across almost all industries – and work to repair the damage done – we have a responsibility to not let our guard down as individuals, employers, communities, families, professionals, workers and citizens.
“None of us wants a return to the early days of extreme lockdown restrictions. We want to move on with our lives. We want our friends and loved ones to remain healthy and safe. As a nation, let us continue to work together to ensure that we progress. The move to alert level 2 of the lockdown is not a ‘free for all.’ The rules on social distancing, mask-wearing, social gatherings and international travel remain. Our success rests on our ability to abide by these regulations and to ensure that we each behave carefully and responsibly. Every time we are considering any form of non-essential activity, we should ask: what is the risk of infection to ourselves and to others? Where there is a risk, even a slight one, it is better not to do it.”