SA needs 'extraordinary effort' to survive Covid-19 pandemic: Cyril Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa said government's central concern was the health of all people.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said government's central concern was the health of all people.
Image: Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

It will take an extraordinary effort for the country to emerge form the Covid-19 pandemic, but government's central concern was the health of all people.

Speaking during his Workers Day address on Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: "We are marking Workers' Day at a very difficult time for our country and the world. The poor and the working class are having to bear the burden of this global pandemic."

Ramaphosa said it was now clear that the world will experience a substantial economic contraction and, in the immediate future, a significant rise in joblessness.

"Our own country will not be spared from this. The challenges that confronted us, such as low economic growth, unemployment, poverty and inequality, have been exacerbated by the pandemic."

Ramaphosa said government's efforts to turn the economy around to create opportunities for young people, to stabilise public finances and to restore state-owned enterprises have now suffered a great setback.

"To emerge from this crisis will require an extraordinary effort. Our central concern on this Workers' Day is for the health of all our people," he said.

Ramaphosa said government was concerned in particular about the vulnerability of workers, the unemployed and the poor.

"Millions of our people still live in informal settlements and crowded areas. Many still do not have access to adequate water and sanitation, and many are undernourished."

The president said millions of workers relied on public transport, where there was a great threat of the transmission of the virus.

Ramaphosa said in order to limit the devastating impact of the virus, government moved swiftly to declare a national state of disaster and implemented a national lockdown.

This meant people's movement was limited to stop the spread of the virus.

Ramaphosa said the lockdown has had a huge impact on the lives of poor people as basic liberties like freedom of movement and freedom of association have had to be curtailed.

He said millions of South Africans have struggled to make a livelihood and to feed their families during the lockdown.

"We all recognise that the lockdown is necessary to save lives. It has kept the infections and the fatalities low while giving us the time to mobilise more capacity for the expected peak in infections the scientists tell us is coming."

Ramaphosa said as SA moved from level 5 to level 4 of the lockdown, and as some people return to work, people must remain vigilant,

"Employers need to take responsibility for the health and safety of their employees."

He said workplaces must adhere to social distancing norms, sanitisers must be readily available and the usual person to person meetings must be limited.

"Companies are expected to screen all employees for Covid-19 every day when they report for work, and companies with more than 500 employees must make arrangements to test their workers."

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