Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said on Thursday that it is through learning that citizens can sharpen their focus in enhancing the capability of the State to deal with outbreaks and other forms of disasters going forward.
He was speaking in Pretoria during the official launch of the Covid-19 Country Report, saying it was important that citizens picked up lessons from the country’s collective experiences in the pandemic to improve things going forward.
He said this was in line with priority one of the current government administration which he said was about building a capable, ethical and developmental State.
“With this said I acknowledge the foresight of the late Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, may his soul rest in peace, and the DPME [Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation] team for recognising at the onset of the pandemic that the research towards the development of the Country Report needed to be initiated,” he added.
The overall aim of the Country Report is to record interventions adopted by South Africa to combat the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and its negative impacts.
Gungubele explained that the Report would be an important reference for future generations, adding that the immediate value in the research for the Report was derived during the research process.
“It is very important to have this record, not only for the sake of record but to ensure that we open South Africans’ eyes to the capability . . . which helped them to survive such a monster,” he said.
The first edition of the Country Report, therefore, makes an important contribution by providing a descriptive analysis based on the information available at the time.
The report covers a period from March 2022 to March 2021, covering the first and second waves of the pandemic.
“As you would know, after this date further waves of Covid–19 infection occurred which were characterised by periods of increased transmission in the country which were around July 2021, December 2021 and to a lesser extent May 2022,” he explained.
Whereas the Covid-19 pandemic presented itself as a health challenge, it had far-reaching implications for the economy and society, Gungubele said. In South Africa, Covid-19 effects induced further economic decline, with the economy already fragile prior to 2020.
Over two-million jobs were lost during the second quarter of 2020 when the strict lockdown measures were in place. The pandemic and lockdown measures amplified existing economic challenges, such as unemployment, poverty and inequality. It exposed existing coverage gaps in basic service delivery and infrastructure and broadened vulnerabilities to certain risks.
“As the research and analysis proceeded, various actors improved their understanding of the pandemic and in the same way, lessons were being drawn – feeding into relevant decision making processes and helping to improve government’s response measures. There are numerous lessons on what worked well and what has not worked well to do and specific recommendations on what to do. To date, important steps taken include the announcement of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan… which signalled a shift in the focus of government towards stabilisation and recovery.
“The complex nature of the pandemic required a multi-pronged, multi-sector approach and accordingly, South Africa’s response was comprehensive and visibly led by the president and the minister of health. The overall response emphasised saving lives and saving livelihoods,” he added.
RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING HEALTH RESPONSE
The recommendations regarding health response chapter recommended implementing preventative measures and vaccine roll-out, as the country experienced multiple pandemic surges.
The chapter concludes by underlining the need to improve surveillance, especially among vulnerable communities; strengthen outbreak prevention and containment measures; integrate behavioural interventions into the health sector to protect public health and well-being; and strengthen data systems to improve informed decision-making.
Meanwhile, data show that Covid-19 infection rates, hospitalisation and ICU admission owing to Covid-19 have reduced compared to the same period last year. To date about 36.8-million Covid-19 vaccines have been administered, with about 19-million people fully vaccinated.
He said research has continued towards production of the second edition of the Country Report, which will cover an extended period and update the analysis in terms of understanding the effect of the pandemic and some of the outcomes of the interventions implemented.