President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for vigilance and cautiousness as the country prepares to reach its peak of coronavirus (Covid-19) infections, and has placed emphasis on ensuring that the elderly are not exposed to the virus.
In his weekly column to the nation, Ramaphosa said as part of the national effort to contain Covid-19, protecting the general population from becoming infected must be matched by efforts to protect people who are at greater risk.
To date South Africa has recorded 196 750 cases of Covid-19 with 3 199 deaths.
Ramaphosa pointed out that while many senior citizens could be facing isolation and loneliness owing to social distancing regulations which have restricted social activities he urged South Africans to keep their distance from the elderly.
The Department of Health has released data showing that people with underlying medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, renal disease, asthma and chronic respiratory disease are more at risk of developing severe complications and dying from Covid-19.
Ramaphosa said government will continue to be led by scientific evidence and adapt its strategies as the country fights the spike of cases.
“According to new research published by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, a third of patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 had at least one co-morbidity. This is a significant concern in a country such as ours that also has high prevalence of HIV and tuberculosis, the leading cause of natural deaths in South Africa last year,” said Ramaphosa.
More than 4.5-million South Africans have diabetes, a figure that has doubled since 2017, said Ramaphosa.
In the Western Cape, diabetes is a co-morbidity in over half of all Covid-19 deaths.
Ramaphosa said government has offered provinces, including Gauteng and the Western Cape, testing to people with co-morbidities whether they show coronavirus symptoms or not.
“As part of the national effort to contain coronavirus, protecting the general population from becoming infected must be matched by efforts to protect people who are at greater risk. Throughout the nationwide lockdown period, we have taken measures to ensure that those who rely on chronic medication or treatment are able to visit health facilities,” he explained.
The Department of Social Development has set dietary standards on the food provided to communities during lockdown to ensure it is of nutritional value, which is particularly important when managing diabetes.
Ramaphosa has also encouraged companies to keep basic food prices down to ensure that people have access to nutritional food.
He urged those living with the elderly to practice hygiene, to limit shared spaces where possible and wear a mask.
“One of the lessons from this pandemic is that we need a holistic approach to health. Anecdotal evidence suggests many of our people have used the lockdown period to make positive lifestyle changes like doing more exercise or quitting smoking. Such developments should be welcomed. If some of us have become healthier during the lockdown, we should continue in this vein,” said Ramaphosa.