President Cyril Ramaphosa
Picture: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS
President Cyril Ramaphosa Picture: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS

Ramaphosa insists government response to coronavirus pandemic was not thumb-sucked, but backed by facts

By Zintle Mahlati Time of article published Jun 18, 2020

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President Cyril Ramaphosa insists that every decision taken by the government on the lockdown regulations were not "thumb-sucked" but were driven by scientific advice.

Ramaphosa answered questions virtually in Parliament on Thursday. It was his first Q&A session since he declared a state of national disaster because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Almost all the questions posed to him dealt with the government's response to the pandemic and the economic impact of the national lockdown.

EFF leader Julius Malema questioned Ramaphosa on the government's approach to move out of a hard lockdown. Malema said to his party it was clear that the government's approach was not motivated by scientific advice but by profit motives.

Ramaphosa disputed this and insisted that the science was the driving force in every decision taken.

“We have said that we have been advised by top scientists in our country and we have also benchmarked what is happening in other parts of the world. Our lockdown was hard, we went on to restrict other things that other countries did not like banning alcohol and cigarettes. We knew that we would not be able to continue with the lockdown forever.

"As we moved from level 5 the consultations were quite broad and detailed. They were backed up by scientific advice. Of course, it is a risk, we have been resolute in saving lives," Ramaphosa said.

 "All we have done was not thumb-sucked. It was benchmarked by the advice we got from the World Health Organisation."

In response to the question from the IFP on which measures the government was taking to ensure funds set aside for the pandemic were not misused, Ramaphosa said protecting the funds was important.

He said the auditor-general had been approached in drawing up measures that can help ensure that all the funds that form part of the R500 billion rescue package were not misused.

"Of course, corruption remains a challenge to our country. Even as we announced this R500bn for relief I took the time to speak to the auditor-general that we put in place mechanism that will raise an alarm at an early stage.

"The auditor-general took his time to come up with a number of rules. We need to make sure those with corrupt intentions are stopped on their track. We have also been disturbed that things such as food parcels have misused," he said.

Ramaphosa acknowledged that as schools reopened some had yet to receive personal protective equipment delivered. He said the decision to open schools was not easy and the scientists had advised that it was possible to do so.

"The virus will be with us for a long time, we need to live with the virus and adjust the risks," Ramaphosa said. 

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