As schools reopened in South Africa on Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said he is worried about the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic these days.
Most people will have noticed that the number of confirmed cases in South Africa has been rising fast, Ramaphosa said in his weekly presidential address.
More than a half of all cases since the start of the outbreak were recorded in the last two weeks, he said.
As of Sunday, South Africa reported 48,285 confirmed cases and 998 deaths, up by 2,312 and 45 respectively from the previous day.
“Like many South Africans, I too have been worried as I watch these figures keep rising,” Ramaphosa said.
He added: “As we watch the number of infections rise further, probably far faster than most of us imagined, we should be concerned, but not alarmed.
“That is because South Africans have the ability, as individuals, communities and as a country to limit the impact of the disease.
“During the course of this coming week, we can expect that the total number of cases will pass the 50,000 mark and the number of related deaths will reach 1,000.”
Ramaphosa was speaking as classes for grade 7 and 12 pupils reopened after a suspension of more than two months.
About 95 per cent of schools have met the requirements for reopening, while the remaining five per cent require more time to raise their state of readiness for resumption in order to comply with the health, safety and social distancing measures, authorities said.
The President said: “It is pleasing to realise that businesses, government departments, schools and other institutions have used the lockdown time to get themselves ready for a gradual return to more-or-less normal activity.
“Social distancing in public places is still a major challenge for South Africans.
“We need to focus our attention on ensuring that we adhere to social distancing practices because it is through close contact between people that the virus will be spread.”
Working with its social partners, the government is working hard to prepare for the increase of infections, the president said.
The measures being taken include the purchase of personal protection equipment from across the world and local production of these products, improvement of the infrastructure in hospitals and setting up of temporary hospitals, provision of more beds for COVID-19 patients and deployment of tens of thousands of community health workers to detect cases in areas where people live, according to Ramaphosa.
South Africa is also intensifying the programme of screening, testing, contact tracing and, where necessary, isolation.
“Over the coming weeks, as we watch the coronavirus infections continue to rise, we must remember that we are not helpless.”