President Cyril Ramaphosa has conceded that there have been inefficiencies in government’s response to COVID-19 with unclear, contradictory and poorly explained lockdown regulations.
Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Wednesday night; seven weeks since the lockdown was implemented.
Businesses, some political parties and health experts have called out government on the extended lockdown, saying it was doing harm to people’s livelihoods.
From business organisations, some political parties to senior politicians working with the president, many have questioned whether government’s approach in dealing with COVID-19 has been at the expense of the livelihood of South Africans.
“Our strategic approach has been based on saving lives and preserving livelihoods,” Ramaphosa said.
The president has conceded mistakes have been made.
“There may have been times when we have fallen short on your expectations. Some of the actions we have taken have been unclear, some have been contradictory and some have been poorly explained.”
Following the Sunday Time’s report that government has admitted to holding back information from the public on the pandemic to avoid panic, the president said he committed to more transparency.
“You want to know when things are bad, and you want to be told when they could get worse. We’re committed to continue to engage and to consult with you.”
He said South Africans must know that all decisions were taken in good faith, they were reasonable and rational and based on solid evidence.
The president also announced that most parts of the country will move to level 3 restrictions by the end of this month.
He said the percentage of cases identified out of all the tests conducted in the country had remained low and stable.
He said that was because South Africans had adhered to the lockdown regulations and helped save lives.
It’s what most South Africans have been hoping for – moving from Level 4 to level 3 – but it’s not happening yet.
“We will immediately begin a process of consultation with relevant stakeholders on the proposal that by the end of May, most of the country should be placed on alert level 3. But that those parts of the country with the highest rates of infection, remain on level 4.”
Level 3 lock down allows for greater relaxation of restrictions.
It may include the sale of alcohol during restricted hours, you can buy clothes, domestic air travel may return, but with limited flights per day – and a permit required.
But the president warns this level 3 comes with risks.
“The transition will in many ways be more difficult than the present one. The risk of infection will increase as more people return to work; this calls for vigilance and responsibility from all of us.”
He said government had been able to strengthen the capacity of health system during the lockdown.