Ramaphosa warns against stigmatisation of Covid-19 patients
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday urged South Africans to stamp out the stigmatisation of people who have proven positive with coronavirus.
The stigmatisation of Covid-19 patients has become one of the challenges confronting the country, Ramaphosa said in his weekly presidential address.
"As a society, we have a collective responsibility to stamp out the stigmatisation of people infected with the coronavirus," the president said.
His statement followed disturbing reports of individuals being ostracised from their communities and of communities protesting against coronavirus patients being admitted to local hospitals and clinics.
This stigmatisation "must stop", and South Africans must continue to be guided by facts and not rumours, Ramaphosa said.
"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.
The stigmatisation is driven by fear of contracting the disease and lack of understanding, according to Ramaphosa.
The best way to overcome the instinctive fear of illness and contagion is to observe the hygiene protocols that are in place, the president said.
"The fear of infection is well-founded and real," he said. "At the same time, we know what we have to do to protect ourselves and others."
The time when anyone could say they do not know anyone who is infected or affected by coronavirus has long passed, said Ramaphosa.
"Now, more than ever, our friends, families, colleagues and neighbours need our empathy and support," he said.
He urged South Africans to prepare for tougher times lying ahead "when we will at times find ourselves despondent and fearful as we see the numbers of people infected and dying continue to rise."
Ramaphosa quoted scientists and medical advisers as saying the rate of infections will go up before it comes down.
"It may be that things have gotten worse, but we are certain that they will get better," he said.
South Africa has seen the rapid spread of Covid-19 since the outbreak in early March, particularly in recent days when daily confirmed cases continued to surpass 6,000.