We must expect COVID-19 infections to rise as people return to work – Ramaphosa

Cyril Ramaphosa. Image credit: Twitter/SA Government

President Cyril Ramaphosa has said a rise in new COVID-19 infections is inevitable as more people return to work.

In his weekly newsletter to the nation on Monday, Ramaphosa said health experts around the world have warned of a “new wave” of infections as lockdown restrictions are eased.

He added, “A number of countries, including Germany, Iran and China, have seen a rise in new infections since they relaxed certain restrictions. We will be no different. We can and must expect infections to rise as more people return to work. We must accept the reality, prepare for it and adapt to it.”

‘Inevitable increase in cases’

The government relaxed the lockdown from level 5 to level 4 on 1 May, which enabled more businesses in selected sectors to reopen and more workers to return to work.

Ramaphosa said the government’s aim is to “steadily reduce the alert level by keeping the rate of infection down and getting our health system ready for the inevitable increase in cases.”

The President warned that life will not be “as we knew it before” and that South Africans must prepare to live with the virus amongst them for at least a year or more.

“Even after lockdown – especially after lockdown – we will still need to observe social distancing, wear face masks, wash hands regularly, and avoid contact with other people. We will need to re-organise workplaces, schools, universities, colleges and other public places to limit transmission,” he said.

‘Firm sense of personal responsibility’

Ramaphosa added that South Africans “will need to adapt to new ways of worshipping, socialising, exercising and meeting that minimise opportunities for the virus to spread.”

He appealed to the public to have a “firm sense of personal responsibility,” adding, “In the same way that we had to change our behaviour to prevent the spread of HIV, now we need to change our behaviour to stop the coronavirus.

“Easing the lockdown restrictions must not result in careless behaviour by individuals or reckless practices by businesses keen to resume activity at the cost of human health.”

As of Sunday, 10 May, South Africa had a total of 10,015 confirmed COVID-19 cases from 341,336 tests. There were 4,173 recoveries, but 194 people had lost their lives to the disease.

The government has ramped up testing in recent weeks, resulting in a rise in the number of confirmed cases. It conducted 17,257 tests between 9 and 10 May, the highest in a 24-hour cycle since testing began.

In his statement on Sunday, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize expressed concern that Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces accounted for 84 percent of the total new cases.

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