Durban — The Health Justice Initiative (HJI) said it was laudable for the South African government to publicly commit to be led by science and evidence in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The HJI said this when it was talking about lessons learnt from the pandemic.
Dr Marlise Richter, a senior researcher at the HJI, said that during the height of the crisis the government’s decision-making had to happen under immense pressure while relieving public anxiety.
Some aspects of the pandemic were approached with urgency, thoughtfulness and efficiency, she said. However, this was not the case throughout the crisis.
“Regrettably, the first few months of SA’s Covid-19 pandemic response were shrouded in non-sharing of information and even secrecy.
“Following public, civil society and journalists’ questioning and advocacy, the Department of Health eventually committed to placing some of the expert advice in the public domain, but not all, despite legal challenges to do so,” said Dr Richter.
Disappointingly, making information available was not always executed in a timely or systematic manner, she said. They did not believe that all essential information that should have been in the public domain had been provided.
“It is unfortunate that a civil society organisation had to take legal action to compel the department to respond to requests for access to information — a right that is guaranteed by SA’s Constitution,” said Dr Richter.
The National Advocacy Manager at Black Sash, Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker, said when the government introduced the Social Relief of Distress Grant (SRDG) during the pandemic it was a small step in the right direction.
However, she said it was insufficient to meet the humanitarian crisis, both under lockdown conditions and even today as many struggle to recover from the aftermath of Covid-19. “Many poor families continue to go hungry,” she said.
Moreover, Abrahams-Fayker said the SRDG is a constitutional imperative that aids economic growth. “It is an investment in our collective future given its proven positive benefits. As a human rights organisation, we believe that income support leads to better nutritional and educational outcomes, improved health, social cohesion, job-seeking behaviour and stimulates local economies,” she said.
Speaking to the World Health Organization, the co-chair of the International Health Regulations Amendments’ Ashley Bloomfield said it was imperative to take lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic. He said this when he was talking about the pandemic accord, when countries are negotiating on how to prepare for the next pandemics, and how to prevent and to respond effectively to them.
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