Thursday, 16 July 2020

Pretoria: President Cyril Ramaphosa has assured South Africans that saving lives during this pandemic is important as government is set to engage stakeholders in the education sector on the reopening schools.

Interacting with communities across the nation through a virtual Presidential Imbizo on Coronavirus on Wednesday, the President said government will in the next few days engage parents, student organisations, unions as well as other organisations, on the matter of reopening schools.

“Once this had been done, we are going to assess what we have heard and discuss it with the medical advisory committee… in the light of what the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. I think we will come to a positive and inclusive decision,” the President said.

The WHO recently warned against the reopening of schools while local transmissions of the Coronavirus are on the rise.

The latest COVID-19 statistics show that South Africa has a total of 311 049 positive cases with 160 693 recoveries and 4 453 deaths.

The President said the decision to open schools was an inclusive decision even though some might not agree with it.

Responding to a caller who asked what is government’s threshold in terms of sacrificing the academic year?  The threshold being how many lives must be lost, the President said every life is important.

“We don’t focus on how many people should die first before we take a particular action. We are about saving lives and we are also about preserving livelihoods. Our strategy is not based on the number of lives of people who must die.

“We are going to sit back and listen carefully to all the key role-players about the re-opening of schools. Losing an academic year cannot be weighed up against the lives of the people we must lose. If we have to get to a point of closing schools, that will be the decision,” President Ramaphosa said.

Sale of alcohol
The President also explained the decision to suspend the sale of alcohol.

“Out of the lived evidence that was given to us by our health workers and medical advisory committee, we realised the hospital beds were being utilised more by people who go to hospital with trauma cases that are alcohol induced,” he said.

Job losses
The President also addressed the recent reports stating that approximately three million people in South Africa lost their jobs between February and April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Economic recovery
“We are committed to focusing our efforts on the economic recovery. We’re working on a very direct economic process and in this we are working together with business, unions and economists in our country.

“Infrastructure is going to unleash a lot economic activities. We’ve got projects that are ready. We’ve also got projects on the public employment side. We will recalibrate the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) to ensure we’ve got a much more robust public employment process,” the President said.