Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu have launched a new multi-sectoral ministerial advisory committee (MAC) on social behavioural change, in an effort to expand the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
During a visual briefing on Tuesday, Mkhize said the committee would be chaired by Malusi Mpumlwana of the South African Council of Churches.
The MAC team comes from diversity of various stakeholders which represents civil society organisations, who are non-governmental organisation, youth organisations, church leaders and traditional leaders, among others.
“This MAC is actually inspired by you, our fellow South Africans. It was South Africans who stayed at home for five weeks, who sacrificed their places of worship, sacrificed their sport, sacrificed their favourite restaurant, sacrificed the Sunday surfs, sacrificed seeing family and friends, postponed weddings, avoided shisanyamas, and denied themselves the touch of another human.
“That collective discipline and cooperation is what allowed us to flatten the curve, push the peak out by a few months, save many lives and balance our resources,” he said.
Mkhize said, while the work of MAC would be to facilitate diverse stakeholder cooperation in the country’s Covid-19 response, it would also facilitate action for fair access to quality healthcare.
He said Covid-19 had changed the way people do things, dress, wash their hands, greet and show affection. And as the economy reopened amid rising infections, Mkhize said the government appreciated the “difficulty of sustaining what feels unnatural”.
“Behavioural change needs constant reinforcement and affirmation.
“It needs the entire buy-in of individuals, communities, societies, cultures and various social groupings,” he said.
Mkhize has also added that the virus had “disrupted our social lives and threatens to sink economies. It has forced humanity to choose between life or external trappings”.
He said, in coming days, the country would see a rise in infections, more people would be hospitalised, and many would lose their lives.
Mkhize said, to deal with the virus, it was no longer about what government says, but that it was about each individual. He also said citizens needed to build a culture of ensuring that they wear masks, wash hands and maintain physical distance.