‘It is upon the conduct of each that depends the fate of all’

President Cyril Ramaphosa has reiterated the call for cooperation and restraint amid an ever-rising coronavirus caseload.

As South Africa continues to languish under the heavy burden of lockdown, President Ramaphosa, well aware of the nation’s growing restlessness, has elaborated on the perils of recklessness relative to easing government regulations and personal freedoms.

Ramaphosa’s concerns, voiced during his customary Monday address, entitled From the desk of the President, focused on the prospects of life after lockdown; in particular, the tricky transitions between various levels which aim to balance economic prosperity with medical preparedness.

The national lockdown, which was officially instituted on 27 March, has had a devastating impact on the nation’s economy; pushing citizens deeper into poverty and raising unemployment. Government’s risk-adjusted protocol, which is intended to ease restrictions, both nationally and regionally, according to the caseload’s volatility, has been criticised as too obstructive.

Ramaphosa faced with lockdown backlash

The president, who initially enjoyed the bulk of public support during the lockdown’s beginning stages, has become subject to stern condemnation. Primary challenges aimed at the president question the Constitutional mandate of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), which has allegedly set the stage for fierce political infighting.

Ramaphosa, who has defended the NCCC and its ‘collective decision making process’, has denied rumours of factional battles and internal divisions. Instead, the president has called on all citizens to observe regulations pertaining to the Disaster Management Act, no matter how restrictive they may seem. Echoing sentiments issued by global healthcare experts, Ramaphosa said:

“As the lockdown is gradually eased, life will slowly return. But it will not be life as we knew it before.

While there is still much about the pandemic that is unknown, experts now agree that the virus will remain a threat to global public health for some time.

We must therefore be prepared to continue to live with the coronavirus among us for a year or even more.

We must be prepared for a new reality in which the fight against COVID-19 becomes part of our daily existence.”

The challenge ahead

The president warned that while the challenges presented by the nationwide lockdown were fiercely multifaceted, stringent and proactive regulations provided South Africa with a strategic advantage, one which afforded the country’s healthcare system a window of opportunity to ready its response ahead of the peak. Ramaphosa warned, however, that the challenges which lay ahead would be “more difficult”.

In response to calls for the lockdown to be eased as a matter of urgency — thereby affording the economy the slightest chance of survival – Ramaphosa noted that government would not act in a reckless manner, saying:

“The transition to the next phase of the coronavirus response, that of recovery, will be more difficult than the present one. The risk of infection outbreaks will increase. The demands on our clinics and hospitals and medical personnel will grow.

That is why easing the lockdown restrictions must not result in careless behaviour by individuals or reckless practices by businesses keen to resume activity at the cost of human health.

The coronavirus crisis will pass. But for as long as it remains a threat to the lives of our people, we must remain vigilant, diligent and responsible.

Now, more than ever, it is upon the conduct of each that depends the fate of all.”

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