President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned that people should be prepared “to live with the coronavirus among us for a year or even more”, adding that people should expect an increase in Covid-19 infections as more people return to work.
In his weekly newsletter on Monday, the president said the easing of the nationwide lockdown must not result in careless behaviour, predicting that the risk of infection outbreaks will increase.
“We will be no different. We can and must expect infections to rise as more people return to work. We must accept the reality, prepare for it and adapt to it,” Ramaphosa said.
He said the demands on clinics, hospitals and medical personnel will grow.
“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,” Ramaphosa said.
He said that a change in behaviour is necessary as restrictions on economic activity and daily life are eased to hamper the spread of the coronavirus.
“In the same way that we had to change our behaviour to prevent the spread of HIV, now we need to change our behaviour to stop the coronavirus,” Ramaphosa said.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Sunday night that the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in South Africa is 10 015.
He further announced eight more deaths, bringing the total number of Covid-19 fatalities to 194.
“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,” he said.
Since the beginning of May, South Africa has been under Level 4 of a nationwide lockdown that saw 1.5 million workers return to work but with strict restrictions still in place.
Ramaphosa said the next phase of the coronavirus response will see government stepping up intensive screening, testing and case management.
“We will introduce new measures to make contact tracing more effective. We will need to implement mass sanitisation of workplaces, public transport and other spaces,” he said.
Ramaphosa noted that South Africa’s success in overcoming the coronavirus will ultimately be determined by the changes we make in our behaviour.
“Even after lockdown – especially after lockdown – we will still need to observe social distancing, wear face masks, wash hands regularly, and avoid contact with other people. We will need to reorganise workplaces, schools, universities, colleges and other public places to limit transmission.
“We will need to adapt to new ways of worshipping, socialising, exercising and meeting that minimise opportunities for the virus to spread.”