Yesterday, 8 June 2020, marked a solemn milestone in our country’s fight against the coronavirus, as the number of our fellow citizens who have lost their lives to this disease passed the 1000 mark reaching 1080.
Over 400,000 deaths have now been recorded across the world, making this one of the most devastating pandemics in the last century. Each one of these deaths is a tragedy. Each one represents a unique life: a parent, a child, a sibling or a friend. Each one leaves behind a family and a community in mourning.
I would like to offer my condolences to all South Africans who have lost someone they love, and wish them strength, courage and hope in the days ahead. We should take this moment to remind ourselves that the coronavirus presents a real danger to all of us. While it may be an invisible enemy, it is nevertheless deadly.
While most of those infected with the virus will have only mild symptoms, or no symptoms at all, they can still spread the disease to others who may suffer far more. To protect yourself and others, you should wear a mask when in public so that it covers your mouth and nose, wash your hands frequently with soap or sanitiser, and don’t sit or stand too close to others in public transport or in a store.
While some have tried to downplay the threat posed by the coronavirus, the majority of South Africans have understood its danger and have acted accordingly. Indeed, the patience and solidarity demonstrated by so many South Africans have saved many thousands of lives.
In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to take whatever action is necessary to safeguard the lives of our citizens. We have used the time we bought during the lockdown to build the capacity of our health system, adding thousands of hospital and quarantine beds, securing adequate medical supplies and personal protective equipment, and putting training and protocols in place at all of our healthcare facilities to prepare for an increase in infections.
These measures will prove invaluable as the number of cases continues to increase. Indeed, this is the moment that we have prepared for. We have been advised by experts that the epidemic will become worse before it gets better.
While our country has had sufficient capacity to cope with the rate of infection so far, we continue to monitor the situation closely. If necessary, we will impose a higher alert level in specific parts of the country to prevent a rapid increase in cases.
It is therefore crucial that all South Africans adhere to the restrictions that remain in place and continue to take basic precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. These precautions remain our best defence against the coronavirus and are necessary to save lives.