‘If this coronavirus spreads, it can cause severe damage’ - ministers appeal for public to stay home
Johannesburg - Cabinet ministers have warned the public that the restrictive measures taken to enforce the national lockdown were part of a concerted effort by the government to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
South Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have risen from a single case on March 5, to over 700 cases as of Wednesday.
Earlier this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day lockdown for everyone within the country, in a bid to contain the highly infectious virus.
At a thee-hour press conference in Pretoria ministers had to defend the measures taken by the government as some reporters drew comparisons with those enforced during Apartheid.
One after the other, ministers explained the gravity of the situation the country found itself in and said it was important for the public to take the lockdown seriously.
Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel said everyone needed to work together to adhere to the strict regulations under the lockdown.
“If this virus spreads widely (in South Africa), it can cause severe damage,” he said, citing the number of vulnerable, immune deprived South Africans.
“The virus is killing thousands of people around the world. I just looked at my phone not long ago and it says the death toll in Spain passes that of China.
“These are unusual measures, and of course it’s painful, it’s not something one celebrates in a democracy. We need to fight this virus by limiting our limits and choice for 21 days, we need to limit the spread of the virus in that period,” said Patel.
Patel said there were drastic adjustments that had to be adhered to under the national lockdown and everyone needed to work together.
“We need to work together to get the message across,” said Patel.
Jackson Mthembu, the Minister in the Presidency, also chipped in: “Throughout the world there is only one call that is being made, ‘stay at home’. We are already at 709 (confirmed infections) as we speak now, do you want it to continue (to spread)?”
Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi called for calm and said the lockdown would not be a walk in the park, but everyone had to adhere for the common good.
“A lot of things you are used to will not happen,” said the minister.
“There will be discomfort during the 21 days, the lockdown is not supposed to be a Sunday School picnic,” said Motsoaledi.
And Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma reminded the public that the country was in a disaster state and the measures being undertaken were necessary.
“It is important for us to realise this is a disaster, If we don’t take these measures seriously, it will be disastrous. Every South African must take action,” said Dlamini Zuma.
She appealed further to people.
“We need to understand what you are doing is saving your life, or may endanger someone else’s life. I am pleading that we all, in solidarity, for the love of one another and Ubuntu, we must take these measures seriously and hope they will work.
“It is a sacrifice from each one of us, for the sake of our people. If we are united and except for looking for loopholes to dodge the lockdown, we can defeat this Covid-19,” said NDZ.
Mthembu reminded South Africans that the virus was not a government, police or army matter, but a societal matter.
“Can we work together?” he pleaded.