Ramaphosa says COVID-19 is far from over, warns of rising infections in EC

The president on Wednesday appealed to citizens to take measures to contain the rise in new COVID-19 infections by adhering to health and safety protocols like social distancing and mask-wearing.

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation on 23 July 2020. Picture: GCIS

JOHANNESBURG – President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday evening announced that the national state of disaster would be extended by another month until 15 December.

“To ensure that we can keep all the necessary prevention measures in place, we are, as required by the Disaster Management Act, extending the National State of Disaster by another month to 15 December 2020,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation.

The president, acknowledging that South Africans were suffering from “coronavirus fatigue”, said many citizens had begun to forget that the virus had not ended.

“What we are seeing brings home a difficult truth: that COVID-19 is far from over. It is very much still here. And it will remain with us for some time to come.”

He warned that the Eastern Cape was showing signs of a resurgence in new cases, and appealed to citizens to take measures to contain the rise in infections by adhering to health and safety protocols like social distancing and mask-wearing.

“In the last week, the number of new cases in the province was 50% higher than the week before. And the total number of new cases in the last 14 days was around 145% higher than the previous 14 days,” Ramaphosa said.

According to the president, the increases in new cases were being driven by massive spikes in the Nelson Mandela Metro and the Sarah Baartman District. He said in October, there was a sustained upward increase in hospital admissions in the province.

“The evidence suggests that the increases in the Eastern Cape could have been triggered by outbreaks in institutions of higher learning such as universities, schools, and attendance by people at large gatherings,” Ramaphosa said.

He added: “When this is combined with poor adherence to social distancing, mask-wearing and other poor hygiene measures, the environment for rising infections is set.”

Ramaphosa said the increase in new cases in the Eastern Cape should be a “wake-up call to all of us that we cannot relax, and we cannot be complacent.”

The president said government was implementing the resurgence plan that was developed together with the surge team deployed to South Africa by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The plan includes contact tracing, ensuring the readiness of health facilities, and being ready to respond to possible clusters outbreaks.

The other areas where higher than average rates of new infections were recorded include Lejweleputswa and Mangaung in the Free State, Frances Baard and Pixley ka Seme in the Northern Cape, and the Garden Route and Cape Town in the Western Cape.

Ramaphosa announced that South Africa’s COVID-19 death toll reached 20,011 confirmed deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The country's total COVID-19 cases stood at 742,394, with the recovery rate at 92%.

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