In his weekly “from the desk of the president” message, Cyril Ramaphosa said the stigmatisation of COVID-19 positive patients in the country has become a real challenge. 

Ramaphosa said, we as a society, have a collective responsibility to stamp out the stigmatisation of people infected with COVID-19. 

CITIZENS WITH COVID-19 OSTRACISED FROM THEIR COMMUNITIES 

Ramaphosa said there have been disturbing reports of individuals being ostracised from their communities and of communities protesting against COVID-19 patients being admitted to local hospitals and clinics. 

“This must stop,” he said. 

“Just as we came together to promote acceptance of people living with HIV and stood firm against victimisation, we must show understanding, tolerance, kindness, empathy and compassion for those who are infected with this virus and for their families,” he added. 

Ramaphosa said the stigmatisation is driven by fear of contracting the disease and a lack of understanding. 

“The best way to overcome our instinctive fear of illness and contagion is to observe the hygiene protocols that are in place. The fear of infection is well-founded and real. At the same time, we know what we have to do to protect ourselves and others,” he said. 

“We must continue to be guided by facts and not rumours,” he added. 

RAMAPHOSA: ‘THINGS WILL GET BETTER’ 

Ramaphosa said the time when anyone could say they do not know anyone who is infected or affected by COVID-19 has long passed. 

“Now, more than ever, our friends, families, colleagues and neighbours need our empathy and support,” he said. 

“In the days, weeks and months that lie ahead, we will at times find ourselves despondent and fearful as we see the numbers of people infected and dying continue to rise. It may be that things have gotten worse, but we are certain that they will get better. Our scientists and medical advisers told us that the rate of infections will go up as we move towards our peak. But it will certainly come down,” he said. 

Ramaphosa also paid tribute to the health care workers who lost their lives caring for the sick. 

“The number of deaths from coronavirus recently passed the 2 000 mark. Among those who have lost their lives are healthcare workers, consummate professionals who cared for the ill, and were a support and comfort to those in hospital isolated from their families,” said Ramaphosa. 

Ramaphosa said these brave South Africans leave their homes, families and loved ones to report without fail for duty every day in clinics, hospitals and other health facilities. Ramaphosa said we, in return, have a duty to them and to their families.

“Their health and their safety must be paramount. We honour them and uphold them as the men and women who have demonstrated they are prepared to risk their lives so that we may live,” he added. 

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Presh JM Reporter

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