Coronavirus: Opposition MPs want to know government's plans

2020-03-05 16:36

In a debate that started minutes after the first infection of the novel coronavirus detected in South Africa was confirmed, opposition MPs called for greater transparency in government's handling of the pandemic and the spread of misinformation.

The urgent debate in the national interest was introduced by DA MP Siviwe Gwarube, after South Africa's first case of the deadly diseased was confirmed on Thursday

Gwarube said countries have gone into crisis mode, imposed travel bans and enforced quarantine measures to contain this virus.

"The disease indiscriminately attacks countries across the globe, therefore, we must understand the inherent weaknesses of the South African health system.

"We should never unjustifiably spread fear, however, we should prepare for the worst. We know the state of our healthcare outside an epidemic outbreak.

"It is therefore not unreasonable to be sceptical about our abilities in the absence of concrete plans to deal with a potential public health crisis."

'Global public health emergency'

She said plans to deal with what has been declared a global public health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO), should be tabled in this National Assembly for scrutiny, discussion and adoption.

"It is important when the president convenes an inter-ministerial task team that decides to repatriate over 150 South Africans from Wuhan, China, the decision is tabled, scrutinised and adopted by Parliament.

"It does not bode well for the function of this House - which is enshrined in the Constitution – that issues of national significance are discussed in the press before the oversight arm of the state has had an opportunity to engage these plans."

She said President Cyril Ramaphosa's decision to repatriate 150 South Africans from China should have been tabled in the National Assembly.

"This is not the time for executive arrogance. It is also not the time for decisions which are bound to affect 57 million people to be made under the veil of secrecy."

IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the party wanted the government to be transparent with the public to quell potential hysteria. 

EFF MP Naledi Chirwa said the majority of South Africans was unaware of what the coronavirus was, and called on government to embark on a mass media and door-to-door campaign to inform the public.

ACDP MP Steve Swart asked government to give the public regular updates on the spread of the disease in the country. 

Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize is due to close the debate.

More to follow.

Read more on:    parliament  |  health  |  covid-19  |  coronavirus
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