Despite government’s efforts to rise above the Covid-19 pandemic affecting most countries in the world, the C-19 People’s Coalition said in a recent statement that it was not enough.
The coalition said despite predictions that South Africa would be adversely affected by the virus’s second wave, government still found themselves “caught unprepared”. The coalition is calling for more to be done to engage with civil society correctly.
They have made some serious suggestions for President Cyril Ramaphosa to consider in his next “family meeting”.
Treating virus outbreaks
C-19 has criticised government’s “penny-wise, pound-foolish neoliberal approach”, in light of abandoned attempts to test, trace and quarantine citizens.
“Since the first wave, the extra mass treatment facilities and field hospitals have been dismantled.
“It remains unclear what’s being one to meet the second wave, which has much higher patient numbers than the first.”
They added that hospital staff still lacked personal protective equipment (PPE), and were demanding that tests, contact tracing and quarantine be ramped up. They are also calling for the boosting of medical staff numbers and oxygenation equipment to address increased hospitalisation.
Health Minister DR Zweli Mkhize faced a three-hour grilling from the parliamentary committee on health on Thursday, during a presentation to update members on virus developments and the vaccine.
Mkhize revealed that vaccines for health workers would be distributed centrally to private and public healthcare sectors.
He alluded to additional facilities to be constructed, especially to accommodate health workers not affiliated with an official institution.
He also confirmed that decommissioned beds in various areas would be reactivated.
C-19 said places of work and public transport sectors were “not taking sufficient steps to protect workers from contagion”.
“We need stronger regulations, enforced by professional health workers and NGOs, to limit contagion in workplaces and public transport.”
The coalition is calling for constant updates from government on vaccines being rolled out, including costs and finance sources, subsidising public vaccines by private medical aid schemes, and providing the country with “a credible plan for a rollout, with time frames and roles established”.
Lack of information
In short, C-19 has slammed government’s plans as “secretive and poorly conveyed”.
“The country does not have an effective, mass communication campaign to tackle Covid-19.”
As such, C-19 believes that this has contributed to the widespread “anti-vaccine sentiment” across the country.
“In October, around 70% of South Africans said they would take a Covid-19 vaccine, but this figure had dropped to around 50% by December.”
C-19 has suggested government funding and coordinating a “bottom-up educational drive”, and roping in community health, health committees, media and civil society, to help inform people about the dangers of the virus, the safety of vaccines, and the need to take a vaccine for the common good.
This is especially relevant because taking the vaccine is not mandatory.
Mkhize said on Thursday it was imperative that citizens “buy into the idea of a vaccine”, and for the public to understand that getting vaccinated was for their own good, and to the benefit of others.
Stealing from the hungry
Corruption has plagued South Africa for decades, but ran rampant and exposed the extent of social ills among politicians during the height of the country’s first lockdown.
“Some local politicians hoarded food while millions of our people were starving.
“As healthcare workers put their lives on the line, the people were treated to an obscene scramble for emergency tenders, conducted by a predatory political class,” C-19 said.
The impending withdrawal of special cash grants such as the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters), was also on the horizon, a step which C-19 says “will contribute to mass hunger”.
C-19 has suggested that government recommit to financial support for people, by making moves towards a dignified universal basic income grant.
“Every effort” must be made to address the situation at the country’s borders, C-19 said, including providing food and water to those stuck at border posts, easing of entry and humane quarantine conditions.
They added that the army continued to be deployed, but only to police and not to assist, despite “gratuitously brutalising the people of South Africa in the first wave”.
“The army must be redeployed from policing to assist with South Africa’s healthcare and emergency needs.”
C-19 signed off on its statement by warning that if government did not rise to the challenges brought on by the second wave of infections, “we all face disaster”.