President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed concern at the lax behaviour of the South African public amid the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to grip the country and the world at large.
Addressing the nation on the country’s COVID-19 status, the President announced the extension of the National State of Disaster to 15 December 2020, as well as a Resurgence Plan with interventions to curb the further spread of infections.
Speaking during Wednesday’s televised address, President Ramaphosa told the nation that although infections have stabilised, many people are still contracting the virus daily and remain vulnerable.
“We are seeing how quickly and how dramatically infections can rise in a number of countries,” he said.
“We are also seeing how health systems can become overwhelmed in the face of rising infections.”
Globally, the world recorded its highest number of weekly new cases since the start of the pandemic and the highest number of weekly deaths.
Over 51 million people have been infected globally, while 1.2 million patients succumbed to the deadly virus.
“Many countries are in the midst of the second wave of infections, which has often been more severe than the first.
“What we are seeing brings home a difficult truth that COVID-19 is far from over,” he warned.
The latest figures reveal that South Africa’s Coronavirus death toll had reached 20 011, while the confirmed cases are now sitting at 742 394.
To prevent a resurgence of infections in the country, President Ramaphosa said government has identified areas of attention.
On top of the agenda is the situation in the Eastern Cape, which is showing signs of resurgence after recording 50% more cases than the previous week.
Meanwhile, the total number of new cases in the last 14 days peaked by 145% than the previous 14 days.
According to the President, massive spikes have been reported in the Nelson Mandela Metro and the Sarah Baartman District in particular, while the province has noted an upward increase in hospital admissions.
The spates of COVID-19 outbreaks are sparked in universities, schools and people attending large gatherings. This is coupled with poor adherence to social distancing, mask-wearing and other poor hygiene measures.
“With many people moving between the Eastern Cape and other provinces – particularly the Western Cape – it is a matter of time before this surge spreads to other parts of the country.”
He has urged the public to adopt measures to contain the rise in infections.
“To ensure that we can keep all the necessary prevention measures in place, we are, as required by the Disaster Management Act, extending the National State of Disaster by another month to the 15th of December 2020,” he said.
He told the nation that government would soon implement the resurgence plan that has been developed together with the World Health Organisation’s surge team deployed to South Africa.
Interventions include intensifying contact tracing, daily community mobilisation, ensuring the readiness of health facilities, and dealing with cluster outbreaks.
“We will be working closely with the provincial government, municipalities and other institutions in the Eastern Cape in the coming days and weeks to ensure that this surge is contained and managed.”
He believes that the Eastern Cape should be a wake-up call to all and that citizens cannot relax and be complacent.
“We are therefore also closely monitoring developments in areas that are experiencing higher than average rates of new infections.”
Also, the areas where there are higher than average rates of new infections include Lejweleputswa and Mangaung in the Free State, Frances Baard and Pixley ka Seme in the Northern Cape, and the Garden Route and Cape Town metro in the Western Cape.
“From the progress, we have made, from the lessons we have learnt, we now know that under the current alert level 1, we have all the tools we need to prevent a resurgence.”
President Ramaphosa believes that there should be no need to return to a higher alert level for as long as people observe all the necessary health protocols and remaining restrictions – as individuals, businesses and institutions.
Sign up for free AllAfrica Newsletters
Get the latest in African news delivered straight to your inbox
“We should be proud of our response as a nation, which has been widely recognised and commended by many across the world.”
President Ramaphosa said another concern is the upcoming festive season that will see many people travel to other parts of the country and host social gatherings.
“These activities, if not undertaken responsibly, pose the greatest immediate threat to our management of the pandemic,” he cautioned.
However, to avoid a second wave, everyone should play his or her part.
“From the big cities and metros to the smallest towns and villages, we all know about this virus.
“From the Grade R learner to the factory worker, from the university student to the grandparent at home, we all know how the Coronavirus can be spread.”
He has urged everyone to wear a mask.
“Wearing a mask every time we leave home is far, far better than a second wave. It is also far better than a return to lockdown and better than having to shut down the economy.”