President Cyril Ramaphosa Photo: GCIS

After months of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa says the country is now transitioning from relief to recovery.

Writing in this week’s edition of his newsletter, the President said when the National State of Disaster was declared in March, the immediate priority was to contain the spread of the virus and provide emergency relief to citizens, communities, workers and businesses.

Over the course of eight months and with the support of social partners, government rolled out a comprehensive set of measures to limit the social and economic impact of the pandemic.

During this period, government massively expanded social protection on an unprecedented scale. In addition to existing social grants to over 17 million people every month, government topped-up the Old Age, Disability and Child Support Grants. As another intervention, government also rolled out a Special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant, which has reached six million people to date.

“The scale of such an undertaking cannot be understated. To bring this system online, there was extensive collaboration between the South African Social Security Agency, the South African Revenue Service, Home Affairs and many others.

“The emergency measures we put in place have laid a firm foundation on which to rebuild our economy.

“As our focus now shifts to the implementation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, our priority will be to stimulate growth and create jobs. There has already been progress in a number of areas.

“We are seeing new funding commitments for infrastructure development following an infrastructure project roundtable last week. A number of employment programmes under the Presidential Employment Stimulus have started. We are pushing ahead with economic reforms in areas such as energy and telecommunications,” said the President.

He said plans are being converted to action and commitments are being reflected in jobs and opportunities.

“It is all the more critical at this time, more so with the festive season approaching, that we do not become the architects of our own undoing. The greatest vigilance is required from us all to keep the virus at bay.”

President Ramaphosa said a resurgence at any scale will not just dramatically reverse the country’s health gains but it “will choke the green shoots of economic recovery that have emerged, and take us back from spring to winter.”

To prevent a second wave of COVID-19 infections, the President said, the country must observe the public health guidelines that remain in place.

“When we fail to wear a mask at a social gathering; when we attend crowded events, we are not only putting ourselves and others at risk. We are also putting our economic recovery in jeopardy. Let us all continue to play our part.”

The President said that the positive actions of wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and regular handwashing have helped the country overcome the worst effects of the pandemic.

“They are still our best defence. Let us remember the sacrifices we all had to make to contain the spread of the virus in the early days.”

Even as most social and economic activity has resumed, President Ramaphosa said the public must still observe all the health measures.

“This is absolutely necessary if we are to rebuild our economy and put this crisis behind us.” –