The time for caution is now, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday night as he warned the country about a Covid-19 resurgence during the festive season.
“The festive season is approaching. Schools and places of higher learning have closed for the summer holidays. Many of you are winding down at work and will soon be at home with your families. Many of you are preparing to travel to reunite with friends and relatives,” the president said as he addressed the country.
But, he said, as fun as these events are, they had the potential to see a spike in infections.
“Travel carries great risks, which we can reduce by avoiding unnecessary travel. We can also reduce infection risk by wearing a mask in public transport, keeping the vehicle windows open and maintaining prevention measures on arrival.
“The summer season is traditionally a time for social gatherings, attending festivals and events, and socialising at weddings, religious gatherings and in both public and private spaces. These social gatherings can be ‘super-spreader’ events that carry a huge risk of transmission of the virus.
“Each of us needs to ensure we take precautions to avoid spreading the virus to our families, especially our elders,” he said.
This meant keeping gatherings small, and having them at outdoor or “well ventilated venues”. Social distancing and wearing of masks was essential.
The advice came as the country recorded its 800,000th confirmed Covid-19 case, with more than 4,400 new infections in the past 24 hours.
“We must remember that as much as we want to relax, this virus does not take a holiday. This has been a difficult year for us as a country. It has severely tested our resolve and demanded great sacrifices of each and every one of us. But even as the holidays approach, we cannot let our guard down.
Unless we take personal responsibility for our health and the health of others, more people are going to become infected. More people are going to die
“Unless we take personal responsibility for our health and the health of others, more people are going to become infected. More people are going to die. Over the past eight months, many people have lost parents, siblings, spouses, friends and colleagues to Covid-19,” he said.
Ramaphosa said citizens owed it those who had died, and to the front-line workers fighting against the virus, “not to let the same suffering and pain be visited on even more families”.
“We owe it to our own friends and relatives and those around us. We owe it to our country, because a resurgence of the virus would be a severe setback to our economic recovery, to our efforts to restore and create jobs, and to our provision of services to the people.
“Most of all, we owe it to ourselves and each other, because this affects us all. I call on each and every one of you to remember those whose lives have been lost and the precious lives we have still to save.
“Over the past eight months, we succeeded in bringing the virus under control by acting together. We fought this pandemic with everything that we had. Through our combined efforts, we saved many thousands of lives which would otherwise have been needlessly lost. Now, as the number of infections begins to rise again, we cannot sacrifice the gains that we made. We cannot return to the darker days of June and July, when transmission of the virus was widespread and the lives of our family and friends were at risk,” he said.