A lockdown works. Respect it – Ramaphosa

Empty Johannesburg streets. (Pieter du Toit, News24)
Empty Johannesburg streets. (Pieter du Toit, News24)

The lesson from the South Africans who returned from Wuhan is that a lockdown works.

This was the messages from President Cyril Ramaphosa in his weekly newsletter on Monday morning.

The Wuhan lockdown shows that, if we strictly observe the rules in place to stop the virus spreading, we will be able to bring infection rates down, said Ramaphosa.

“It shows that if we cooperate with health authorities in doing what we have to do, we won’t be just saving our own lives but those around us too.”

Ramaphosa said that the experience of the South Africans in Wuhan demonstrated the effectiveness – and the necessity – of a state of lockdown.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in the province of Hubei, had more than 50 000 infections. Now, after more than two months after stringent lockdown measures were put in place, the province has had fewer than 20 new cases in the past two weeks.

“It was due to the drastic actions that the Chinese government took to contain the disease in the city of Wuhan that all of our people were able to return uninfected and healthy,” said Ramaphosa.

He highlighted the fact that the containment of the disease in Wuhan City, in Hubei Province and in other places across China required a massive and extraordinary effort.

“It involved drastic restrictions on daily life and is having a severe impact on the Chinese economy.”

But, he said, other countries that have taken similar measures are having greater success in managing the spread of the disease than countries that have been slower to respond.

“It is now abundantly clear that the most effective way for a society to contain the spread of the disease is for the population to remain at home and physically isolated from each other for at least several weeks. And it is important that this lockdown and all other emergency measures are both strictly adhered to and consistently enforced.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa's gloves are sanitised by members of the South African National Defence Force as he visits South Africans who are leaving The Ranch in Limpopo. Picture: GCIS

Ramaphosa, who was in Polokwane this weekend to meet the 114 South Africans who were evacuated from Wuhan in China two weeks ago, said that their story should give the rest of South Africa encouragement and hope in the difficult weeks that lie ahead.

“Their story tells us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that if we stay the course, that if we remain disciplined and respect the lockdown, that if we work together, we will overcome,” he said.

The 114 people will have experienced a total of 82 days in lockdown – 51 in China, 14 in Polokwane and the remaining 17 of South Africa’s lockdown.

“As they can testify, such restrictions on daily life, on movement and on ordinary human contact are extremely difficult to endure. In the South African context, a lockdown brings additional hardship and strain, and we are doing everything within our means to lessen the impact on our people,” said Ramaphosa.

The president said he was impressed by the Wuhan group’s resilience and courage and by their determination to remain healthy.

“They have come from the epicentre of the coronavirus in Wuhan in China and have seen the devastating impact this virus is wreaking on human life. It is not surprising to hear them say that they are on a mission to safe-guard the health of those around them. Now their patience and fortitude has been rewarded, because they are returning to their families.”

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