President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday expressed concern for frontline health workers who have died owing to the coronavirus (Covid-19) and has also warned against the stigmatisation of people who have tested positive for the novel virus.
In his weekly column to the nation he said the country must be guided by facts and not rumours, this as the country recently surpassed 2 000 Covid-19 deaths.
Ramaphosa said frontline workers were the true heroes and heroines and acknowledged that they were working under great pressure and carrying the psychological strain of knowing they are at risk of contracting the virus.
“We salute these brave South Africans who leave their homes, families and loved ones to report without fail for duty every day in clinics, hospitals and other health facilities. There they provide medical care, administrative support and other services like cleaning and catering,” said Ramaphosa.
He said South Africa has a duty to frontline workers and their families, pointing out that their health and safety must be paramount.
“We honour them and uphold them as the men and women who have demonstrated they are prepared to risk their lives so that we may live. For them to do their Herculean work they need our support as well as protection through the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE),” he added.
However, Ramaphosa pointed out that many South Africans who had tested positive for the virus also faced stigmatisation, which he said society had a responsibility to stamp out.
He pointed out reports of people being ostracised from their communities and incidents of communities protesting against Covid-19-positive patients being admitted to local hospitals and clinics.
“Just as we came together to promote acceptance of people living with HIV and stood firm against victimisation, we must show understanding, tolerance, kindness, empathy and compassion for those who are infected with this virus and for their families,” said Ramaphosa.
He called for the stigmatisation to end and urged for strict hygiene practices to be enforced.
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
Ramaphosa said PPE shortages, as well as staff shortages in hospitals and clinics, were urgently being attended to.
Ministers and their deputies are being deployed to districts across the country to get a line of sight of specific challenges.
Ramaphosa commended South African trade unions for educating their respective members on infection control and prevention and hygiene.
The unions are also supporting the Department of Employment and Labour in conducting workplace inspections for returning workers, while many trade unions are also providing coronavirus information to their members and employers are running awareness campaigns.
He gave assurances that while scientists and medical experts report infection rates will climb as South Africa moves towards its peak, the numbers will eventually come down.
“We pay tribute to the health care workers who lost their lives caring for the sick. In their memory, let us keep ourselves and our fellow citizens safe by playing our part. We shall overcome this virus and rebuild our society. We have seen darker times and we have prevailed. Let us spare neither strength nor courage as we work together to save lives,” said Ramaphosa.