South Africans must choose between life and “sickness or death” as the country faces a devastating second wave of Covid-19 infections, health minister Zweli Mkhize said on Saturday.
Speaking during a webinar, Mkhize said: “If we choose life, then we must realise that we have to make sacrifices during this festive season. It will not be possible to celebrate the holidays in the way we are accustomed to.
“We must now understand that the frivolities that are usually associated with the festive season must make way for the things that really matter — family and friends, caring for one another, physical and spiritual rejuvenation and preserving the spirit of ubuntu,” Mkhize told a virtual gathering to mark Universal Health Coverage Day.
“We therefore all need to take action to save lives and protect everyone. We must commit to small gatherings, responsible drinking, frequent sanitising or washing of hands and surfaces, social distancing and we must never compromise on the correct and consistent wearing of masks.”
Active Covid-19 infections in SA have almost doubled to 63,758 since reaching a low of 33,753 on November 10, and this week Mkhize said the second wave was now firmly established, propelled by soaring infection rates in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
The minister told webinar delegates: “We find ourselves in the midst of a second wave that seems determined to dwarf the first wave.
“As we are confronted by the heavy storm approaching us, I must take the opportunity to appeal to the public, particularly our youth, to be fully conscious of their agency and the role they must play to protect everyone from the devastation of Covid-19.
“We, as government, have and will continue to mobilise all the state machinery we have at our disposal to fight Covid-19. But this virus can only be defeated by each and every South African’s sense of duty and compassion. Only you have the power to stop Covid-19.”
Mkhize said SA had “endeavoured not to waste the proverbial good crisis” by trying to use the pandemic as a way of introducing elements of universal health coverage.
“It is now well recognised that SA is one of those nations that has adopted and deployed a highly co-ordinated response to the onslaught of Covid-19,” he said.
“This is because, for the first time in our history, we approached a public health crisis as one unit, through pooling of resources. We paid special attention to strengthening the primary health care system through our community testing and screening campaigns and mobile testing units, among other strategies.
“We are therefore feeling highly encouraged by the progress that has been made towards universal health coverage in this country, even as we faced significant pushback from the advent of Covid-19.”