As South Africa steadily edges to its COVID-19 peak, President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged citizens not to be complacent and adhere to the regulations put in place.
“We have all seen images and this is the worrying part, of people having parties and social gatherings, attending funerals where sometimes the limited number is not adhered to and without masks.
“Tonight I want to implore all of us to embrace the regulations with the same vigour that we did in the early days. I’d like to ask that everyone should be very conscious of the actions that we take because they impact the safety of those around you,” he said.
With the country’s COVID-19 cases tipping over the 150 000 mark at 151 209 recorded on Tuesday, President Ramaphosa made the call during the first virtual Presidential Imbizo on Coronavirus.
The Imbizo, a public-participation platform where communities are able to interact directly with the government on challenges in society, took place on Wednesday evening.
Citizens called in using the toll-free hotline: 0800 142 446 - and under the #PresidentialImbizo took to social media to engage the President on Coronavirus, gender-based violence, the cigarette ban and life beyond lockdown.
“We need to look at opportunities that this moment yields. What are those opportunities?
“We currently involved in looking at the various opportunities that were given rise by COVID-19, opportunities such as resetting the economy of our country.
“Coronavirus has brought with it the presence of devastating poverty, unemployment and indeed it has done so for many other countries, not that it was not known but the Coronavirus has brought it to the fore,” said the President.
The steady rise of COVID-19 infections has left many South Africans reasonably anxious as was evident in some of the questions posed to the President, which engaged the President on the symptoms of COVID-19.
While the President is admittedly not a medical doctor, he highlighted some key symptoms of COVID-19 such as chest pains, headaches, joint pain but equally stressed that some patients are asymptomatic.
On a question as to when smokers can expect the lifting of the cigarette ban, the President emphasised that this will take place as the country gradually moves through the various levels.
“We will not be under lockdown forever - even the ban on cigarettes will be lifted. It is still in place now in terms of our regulations and I think we should accept it as such and with time as we go to another level, the ban on cigarettes will be lifted,” he said.
Gender-based violence also reared its ugly head, with a caller raising her concern to the President over the inability to lay a charge of the assault she recently experienced at a police station, stifled by the police officers.
Having previously highlighted gender-based violence as the country’s second pandemic, President Ramaphosa punted the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to gender-based violence that involves layers of professionals and goes beyond the opening of a case.
“It does not matter whether she has been violated by a person who is mentally challenged, she does need to have redress. The redress should be the type that involves the intervention of a whole number of professional people from social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. They should be brought into the picture.
“It should not just be the word of the police officers because they may not be well versed in issues that have to do with people who are mentally challenged,” said the President.
Noting the socio-economic impact of the Coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown, the President urged South Africans not to underestimate the magnitude of the challenges presented by the virus.
On Tuesday, Stats SA announced that Gross Domestic Product GDP contracted by 2%. Just last week, the statistics agency announced that the country’s unemployment rose to 30.1%.
“We must not underestimate the magnitude of the challenge we are facing and we have to be realistic that it will take some time for our economy to recover. Already before the pandemic our economy was facing enormous challenges and it is for this reason that our recovery will take time," he said.