With just hours to go until South Africa enters a 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Cyril Ramaphosa, has sent the men and women in uniform to serve, guide and lead the way.
In a seminal moment for South Africa, the President delivered a moving address to both the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) respectively.
Disrupting tradition and adhering to government’s regulations of only a 100 people per gathering to contain the virus, only a 100 officers and soldiers each were deployed for the President’s send-off message.
Addressing the men and women in blue, on a rainy Thursday evening, at the SAPS College in Tshwane, the President urged the police to execute their mission of saving lives with humility and respect.
“Officers, I send you off now to go and be amongst our people. I send you to conduct service amongst our people and shower our people with guidance, advice and leadership right now in the Republic of South Africa.
“Let us make sure that we as the police service do not do anything that will violate the rights of our people by mistake or unintentionally. Let us go and do right by the people of South Africa and save their lives. This is the hour. This is the moment that you were trained for,” said the President.
Following the address to the police, the President proceeded to the SANDF Doornkop Army Base in Johannesburg where he further called on the armed forces to provide assurance to South Africans.
“Your mission is to save lives. We are not the only country waging war against an invincible enemy – Coronavirus. In you, our people have a defence mechanism.
“Tonight, you begin the most important calling of your mission, to save the lives of South Africans,” said the Commander in Chief.
The President emphasised that the deployment was not one of force – but rather for the protection of citizens.
“This is not a moment of skop and donner. Throughout the country our people are going to be looking up to you. I want you to execute your task with great respect to our people. I have confidence our people will abide by the regulations,” he said.
Coinciding with the President’s address, was the announcement of the rise in confirmed Coronavirus cases to 927 – an increase of 218 cases from Wednesday.
From midnight today, South African Police Services (SAPS) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will play an important role in supporting and enforcing the nations’ compliance with the restriction of movement of people under the National State of Disaster and lockdown.
Earlier this week, the President took an unprecedented step where he announced the escalation of measures to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus following deliberations with the National Command Council.
In an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, and in consideration of the growing numbers of people contracting the virus, the President declared a national lockdown to be enforced for 21 days beginning this evening, Thursday 26 March 2020, at midnight.
The nation-wide lockdown will be enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act wherein the majority of the population are compelled to stay at home.
By calling citizens to stay at home and shutting down population movement, South Africa, like many countries across the globe is buying time and reducing the pressure on health systems.
World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus warned, however, that a lockdown as a measure on its own, will not extinguish epidemics.
Instead, WHO urged countries to use the lockdown as a second window of opportunity to trace affected patients, scale up testing, isolate and quarantine patients and prevent a resurgence of the virus.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation confirmed 416 686 cases around the world, affecting 196 countries with 18 589 deaths recorded globally. – SAnews.gov.za
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