In an effort to tighten government’s grip on the impending surge of COVID-19 cases, President Cyril Ramaphosa is deploying Ministers and Deputy Ministers to every district of the country to support the work of provincial health authorities.
Ramaphosa revealed this in his weekly newsletter to the nation.
This, he said, will be in addition to getting a line of sight on specific challenges in the districts.
In his letter, the President also paid tribute to frontline healthcare workers, who have succumbed to the virus.
“We need to work together to safeguard the health of not just our frontline workers but the entire workforce,” he said.
Ramaphosa commended what he described as sterling work done by unions in educating members around infection control, prevention and hygiene.
“They are also supporting the work of the Department of Employment and Labour in conducting workplace inspections to ensure health and safety protocols are in place for returning workers. Many of our trade unions are also providing Coronavirus information to their members and employers are running awareness campaigns,” he said.
One of the challenges that has emerged in the country, he said, is the stigmatisation of people who have tested positive for Coronavirus.
“As a society, we have a collective responsibility to stamp out the stigmatisation of people infected with Coronavirus. 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,” he said.
This must stop, he said.
With over 2 000 COVID-19 related deaths confirmed since March, the President said it was important to support and comfort to those in hospital isolated from their families.
In honouring health workers, the President said: “That the men and women carrying out this most noble and sacred of duties are themselves falling ill and dying is a devastating blow.
“They are on the frontline of fighting this pandemic. They are working under great pressure and must carry the psychological strain of knowing they are at risk of contracting the virus. They are the true heroes and heroines of our battle against Coronavirus.
“We salute these brave South Africans, who leave their homes, families and loved ones to report without fail for duty every day in clinics, hospitals and other health facilities. There they provide medical care, administrative support and other services like cleaning and catering.”
Government, he said, will continue to support healthcare workers by providing them with personal protective equipment (PPE) and other essentials.
He said it was critical for society to work together to promote acceptance and stand firm against victimisation.
“We must show understanding, tolerance, kindness, empathy and compassion for those who are infected with this virus and for their families."
Ramaphosa said the best way to overcome society’s instinctive fear of illness and contagion is to observe the hygiene protocols that are in place.
“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. We must continue to be guided by facts and not rumours.”
In the days, weeks and months that lie ahead, he said, the country will at times deal with fear and despondency as the numbers of people infected and dying continue to rise.
“It may be that things have gotten worse, but we are certain that they will get better. Our scientists and medical advisers told us that the rate of infections will go up as we move towards our peak. But it will certainly come down,” he said.