Deputy president David Mabuza has warned that South Africa cannot afford to have another province going the way of the Western Cape, which is the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
The Western Cape has 27,006 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 651 deaths recorded.
Mabuza was in the Free State on Friday, as the country had entered into alert Level 3 of the risk-adjusted approach adopted by government in combating the spread of the pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands and has infected millions across the globe.
“I think that’s the point where the Western Cape lost it, they did not trace contacts. The virus was spreading unnoticed and it just became a problem,” said Mabuza.
He agreed with deputy health minister Dr Joe Phaahla who said if another province produced high numbers of infections, the country would find itself in a serious crisis.
“If we have another province that can take that direction then the country will be in a serious problem, I am sure we will be sounding the warning bell to the Eastern Cape. As we see the numbers are not good. We need to do something to change that trajectory,” said Mabuza.
The deputy president praised the premier of the Free State and her executive for the work being done in that province to flatten the curve. He said the provincial report showed that it had almost traced 99% of the contacts from its first case.
He also told Premier Sisi Ntombela that national government remained worried about the state of the city of Mangaung, calling for her and her executive to “deepen” efforts and to adopt different models for different parts of the province.
Mangaung was the source of the province’s first cases, after a number of people including ACDP leaders Reverend Kenneth Meshoe and Steve Swart contracted the virus after attending a church gathering.
Mabuza, who continuously reiterated the need for South Africans to understand that they need to live with the virus as there was no vaccine yet, said it presented a difficult challenge for government which had to focus on saving lives and livelihoods.
He also supported government’s decision for implementing a lockdown saying it was necessary to prevent loss of life when it was initiated but now “life must go on.”
Mabuza said the lockdown was one of the few instruments available for the government to manage the pandemic – it had served its purpose and would be set aside as South Africans were now called to wash their hands, sanitise and maintain social distancing at all times.
“We can’t survive on food parcels, someone must be in the field to produce food. We can’t all go and hibernate,” said the deputy president.
He said the pandemic had a negative impact on the country’s already ailing economy.
Leaving many looking for more resources but without the money to do so.
“We will continue, in a very adjusted way, looking at the risk, opening the economy and now in level 3 with lots of movements, lots of activities, presents a problem to authorities, those in leadership spread… this is a reality we must deal with,” he said.