As the festive season has arrived, the President Cyril Ramaphosa reminded South Africans to be cautious and continue to regularly wash or sanitise their hands, observe social distancing, and avoiding large gatherings and indoor spaces where ventilation is poor.
He was addressing the nation on Thursday, December 3 on the country’s risk-adjusted response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The address followed a special sitting of Cabinet, which considered recommendations of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) meeting.
“Travel carries great risks, which we can be reduced 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,” President Ramaphosa said.
He said 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. We should keep gatherings small, have them outside or in well ventilated venues, ensure social distancing and wear masks as much as possible,” President Ramaphosa said.
He reminded every resident in the country to take the appropriate steps to prevent the virus from spreading any further.
“Just as we did in the early days of the pandemic, let us stand together and let us work together. Just as we know that a second wave is possible, we know too that it is not inevitable.
“So tonight, I am asking you to recommit yourself to this fight. We will get through this period of difficulty, as we did the ones before.”
Nelson Mandela Bay declared as COVID-19 hotspot
Ramaphosa said Cabinet declared Nelson Mandela Bay a Coronavirus hotspot following a recommendation of the National Coronavirus Command Council, and after consultation with Premiers, metro mayors and traditional leaders.
“When identifying a hotspot, consideration is given to the number of new COVID-19 cases per day, the testing rate within the population, the percentage positivity rate within the population, the number of active cases, the number of hospital admissions and the number of deaths,” the President said.
According to President Ramaphosa, Nelson Mandela Bay and the Sarah Baartman District in the Eastern Cape, as well as the Garden Route District in the Western Cape, account for most of the new infections in the country.
Hospital admissions in these districts are on the rise. In some instances, the admissions are comparable to those during the first wave of infections.
“In the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, there has been an increase in both reported COVID-19 deaths and excess deaths. This must be a concern for every one of us,” the President said.
In the coming days, the Minister of Health will visit the Sarah Baartman District and the Garden Route to assess the situation, and to engage with various stakeholders.
“Based on this assessment and the development of the disease in these areas, the National Coronavirus Command Council will determine the appropriate course of action,” President Ramaphosa said.
In addition to the existing Alert Level 1 regulations, the following additional restrictions will apply in Nelson Mandela Bay with effect from midnight on Thursday.
Vaccine efforts on track
With many initiatives around the world to speed up the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, President Ramaphosa has assured South Africans that government is working with its partners to ensure all countries have access to the vaccine.
“We continue to collaborate with our partners in the international community to ensure that all countries have access to an effective and affordable vaccine,” the President said.
The president said South Africa is participating in the World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 Global Vaccine Access Facility – known as the COVAX Facility – which aims to pool resources and share vaccine development risk, and thus ensure equitable access to vaccines when they become available.
The Solidarity Fund will be making the initial contribution of R327 million towards the vaccine procurement on behalf of the country.
“We are also encouraged by the promising results from three trials of candidate vaccines, which have shown efficacy levels of between 70% and 95%.
“We await confirmation from medicine regulators that these vaccines are safe, effective and suitable for our needs,” President Ramaphosa said.