Democratic Alliance (DA) interim leader John Steenhuisen urged South Africans, on the eve of Friday’s national lockdown, to adhere to the measures set out by government, as the country tries to fight growing infections from the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.
On Monday President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country will enter into a national lockdown for the next 21-days from Thursday at 23:59, as the confirmed cases rise to 709 in the country.
“This is a first in our nation’s history. We’re in uncharted territory .Our situation is surreal. In a matter of weeks, the ordinary and predictable has given way to the extraordinary and unprecedented. Never in the history of our nation have we had to take such massive decisions in so short a time with so many unknowns against such an invisible yet deadly a threat,” said Steenhuisen.
He said, despite the uncertainty, South Africa had a good plan if everybody got on board to stay physically apart from other households, to break the chains of infection.
Steenhuisen applauded Ramaphosa for producing a “bold and credible plan” which he said may appear to some to be “overkill”.
However, he said the plan was based on the premise that the sooner we act to suppress the virus the better, and added that although the measures were for a limited, doable amount of time, it would save millions of lives and possibly even millions of rands down the line.
“The strategy is to fight it hard now while it is still in its infancy, and get the better of it before it gets the better of us. Even if we don’t manage to stamp out this virus completely with this lockdown, we buy ourselves precious time. The world has never learned as fast about any other disease, ever. Humanity will know a lot more about this virus in three weeks’ time than it does now,” he said.
He urged all South Africans to support the plan implemented by government and said there was no longer a debate about it.
“Make no mistake. This plan comes at a massive, immediate socioeconomic cost. Which is all the more reason that we cannot afford to fail on implementation. Every single one of us has a role to play. While many of us may feel powerless in the face of this emerging threat, in fact every one of us has the power to break possible chains of infection. And not only the power but the civic duty and legal imperative to do so,” he emphasised.
He reminded South Africans that the virus will not survive if it is denied new hosts and urged the liberal use of patience, cooperation, self-discipline and soap.
“This is a temporary break in our freedoms, not a permanent one. For the millions of South Africans living in cramped conditions, giving up those freedoms will be an extraordinary challenge and sacrifice. Others are lucky to have more spacious homes. We should all try to find the opportunity in this. This can be a chance to read the books we’ve been meaning to read, watch the films we’ve been meaning to watch, clear out the unused stuff in our cupboards, get our affairs in order, sleep, start a programme of morning push-ups or stretching,” Steenhuisen suggested.
While the lockdown would stop many activities, Steenhuisen said economic activity did not have to come to a complete stop.
He said much work could still be done and some services could be delivered remotely.
“This is an opportunity to learn new ways of doing things. Ways that may turn out to be much easier on ourselves and the living world on which our lives ultimately depend. Hopefully we will emerge from this crisis more resilient and more united than before. Never has it been more apparent that we need to cooperate and work together, even as we stay physically apart,” he said.
Steenhuisen said he has also suggested to Ramaphosa that he convene daily press conferences to address the nation on the virus and provide clarity and stability to the country.