The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has plunged us into unchartered waters, leading to a steep learning curve.
However, throughout this crisis, we have remained resolute in keeping citizens informed through regular updates.
As a caring and listening government, we have continually assessed our operations and have amended our practices to best respond to various challenges.
We are aware that sometimes our efforts will fall short, but when they do, we quickly redouble our work and do better. Throughout this most taxing time for our nation, we have kept citizens updated, and our colleagues in the media have been instrumental in this regard.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, as the chief communicator of government, has led from the front by addressing the nation almost every week and giving direction since this pandemic hit our shores.
Through regular media briefings and statements, we have ensured that citizens have first-hand knowledge of developments.
This has been further bolstered by an ongoing social media information campaign across various platforms, including unmediated live communication through radio, TV, online, print, leaflets, drones, social media, formal structures of government (across all three spheres), engagement with civil society stakeholders, business, religious communities, traditional leaders and even loud-hailing where required.
The regular release of updated information on those of our people who have been screened, tested and who have succumbed to this virus has ensured that citizens are kept up to date on our efforts to fight the spread and flatten the curve.
In an ideal world, we would prefer to release updated statistics at a set time of the day, however, given the many variables in this most complex effort, this is not always possible. We have, however, remained resolute in providing updated case numbers, and these continue to be provided regularly.
The department of health remains the primary source for updated information, and we will continue to provide regular updates on new cases, and on our screening and testing efforts.
As we enter this new phase of the fight, we remain confident that our partners in the media will continue to keep citizens informed of any new developments. Screening and testing is being ramped up. Similarly, tracing people who have been in contact with an infected person will help to slow the spread.
Everyone has a role to play in this fight.
We will carry out extensive tracing through cellphones in cases where persons might have unknowingly been in contact with someone who tested positive. Government would like to assure citizens that the contents of electronic communication such as voice conversations and messages will not be intercepted.
The first phase of the lockdown has shown that our efforts are working. South Africans have responded to government’s call in great numbers. By simply heeding the call to remain home, we have begun to change the trajectory of the spread. Government thanks all citizens who are acting in a responsible and disciplined manner through this very difficult period.
The fight is, however, far from over, and the next few weeks will be vital. Our enhanced screening, testing and tracing efforts will also go a long way in providing us with a fuller picture of both successes and challenges.
As a caring and listening government, we know that we must continually do better, and we shall. We know that information is an essential ingredient in this fight. However, as a responsible government, we will only share information once it has been confirmed and verified. To do otherwise would be irresponsible.
As we navigate these unchartered waters, we ask that the media remain our partners, helping us to spread the message to the public, debunk the myths and misinformation, and report the news. Let us continue to fight this deadly virus by staying at home. Together, we can beat this.
Mthembu is Minister in The Presidency