Johannesburg/Cape Town – President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to extend the nationwide coronavirus lockdown by a further two weeks was a decision that was not taken lightly, he said.
Ramaphosa said he knew that spending more time away from loved ones would be difficult for most South Africans, but he said it was necessary to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
The 14-day extension to the lockdown means movement will remain restricted for most South Africans until at least the end of April.
Delivering his address to the nation on the eve of the Easter weekend, Ramaphosa called on South Africans to care for one another and implored citizens to care for the vulnerable and the destitute during the lockdown.
He called on all South Africans to make whatever contributions they could, to the Covid-19 Solidarity Fund.
“This is a difficult time for us all. Yet the message of Easter is one we carry in our hearts tonight. It is the message of hope, of recovery and of rebirth.
“As we walk this road together, as we struggle to defeat this pandemic, we remain strong and united and resolved. Much is being asked of you, far more than should ever be asked.
“But we know that this is a matter of survival, and we dare not fail. We shall recover. We shall overcome. May God bless South Africa and protect her people,” said the president.
Earlier, the president said that the lockdown was proving effective for the efforts against the spread of the virus, but said ending the lockdown would be counterproductive for the efforts that had been collectively made since the start of March.
In extending the lockdown by a further two weeks, effectively making it a 35-day lockdown, Ramaphosa acknowledged that the extension would have a serious impact on the economy and schools the government had no choice.
Ramaphosa said the figures showed that the lockdown has slowed down the rate of infection from 42% before the start of the lockdown to 4% a day during the lockdown.
The lockdown was supposed to come to an end next Thursday, but Ramaphosa said it was necessary to impose an additional two weeks.
He said the struggle against the coronavirus was far from over.
“If we end the lockdown too soon or too abruptly we risk the massive resurgence of the disease,” said Ramaphosa.
He said he met various stakeholders and all parties agreed to the extension of the lockdown.
He said he and his Cabinet will take one-third of their salaries to donate to the Solidarity Fund.
“Our struggle against coronavirus remains a fundamental change in our behaviour,” he said.
“As we emerge from this crisis our country will need to undergo a fundamental process of reconstruction,” he said.
By Sihle Mlambo and Siyabonga Mkhwanazi