Ramaphosa says resilience and solidarity will overcome pandemic, as global cases surge

As coronavirus cases around the globe surged past 300 000 and countries introduce even stricter measures to contain the spread of the virus, President Cyril Ramaphosa used his weekly letter to call for unity and solidarity.

"This crisis will not debilitate our nation. In how we have responded, we have affirmed the true character of our nationhood. It is strong, it is resilient and, above all, it is rooted in solidarity," said the president.

He also quoted former US president Abraham Lincoln who said that, "if given the truth, [the people] can be depended upon to meet any national crisis".

Ramaphosa on Sunday met with business leaders and later chaired a meeting of the National Command Council. He was expected to give an update on additional interventions to keep the virus from spreading, and possibly an economic rescue package, but this was postponed to Monday.

"There comes a time in the affairs of a country when, in the face of the most formidable of challenges, its very existence as a nation is put to the test," wrote the president on Monday. 

"The coronavirus pandemic continues to spread at a relentless pace across the globe. As nations of the world we find ourselves in the same fight: to contain the virus, to protect the lives of our people, and to fortify our economies against the inevitable disruption to manufacturing, productivity, growth and employment."

Ramaphosa said that in the face of the pandemic and awareness campaigns, South Africans were changing their behaviour.

"The manner in which all South Africans have taken charge of not just their own personal health but the health of those around them has been exemplary and heartening. Everywhere we see signs of behavioural change as the nation rallies behind infection control measures."

"From filling stations to taxi ranks, from spazas to restaurants, South Africans fully understand the gravity of the situation," said Ramaphosa. "Hand-washing is being practiced and hand sanitiser is available in stores and other retail spaces. People are observing the rules restricting large public gatherings. Businesses and workplaces are complying with the regulations in the best interests of their customers and employees."

He lauded large retailers for issuing directives restricting the purchase quantities of in-demand items to curtail panic buying.

"This measure was a laudable effort to protect the rights of ordinary South Africans, but most especially the poor. It is also a welcome sign that South African business will not engage in unscrupulous profiteering from a national disaster."

According to the department of health, South Africa has 274 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

Ramaphosa noted that all political parties in Parliament as well as religious leaders had pledged their support to fight the pandemic.

Resilience and solidarity, he said in closing, would ensure our victory over the pandemic.

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