Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele says although government initiated interventions to mitigate the effects of the Covid pandemic, many lessons can be learnt and gaps covered in order to improve the state’s disaster management capabilities.
Gungubele was speaking during the launch of the South Africa Covid Country Report, which records measures and interventions adopted by the country to combat Covid and its negative socioeconomic impacts.
“It is important that we pick up lessons from our collective experiences to improve things going forward. It is through learning that we can sharpen our focus in enhancing the capability of the state to deal with outbreaks and other forms of disaster,” he said.
The first edition of the report references the time period during SA’s experience of the first and second waves of Covid infections. A second edition will detail an extended period following those two waves and some of the outcomes of government’s interventions.
Gungubele said the value of the report was “derived during the research process”, which gave government concurrent analysis on the Covid situation and allowed the state to respond more efficiently.
“As the research and analysis proceeded, various actors improved their understanding of the pandemic and in the same way, lessons were being drawn – feeding into relevant decision making processes and helping to improve response measures,” he said.
Gungubele said some recommendations in the report have already been implemented, including those relating to social relief assistance, vaccinations, government regulations and the economy.
“There are numerous lessons on what worked well and what has not worked well and specific recommendations on what to do. To date, important steps taken include the announcement of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan … which signalled a shift in the focus of government towards stabilisation and recovery,” said Gungubele.
“The extension of the social assistance programme has been effected through the social relief of distress grant until 2023.”
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He reflected on the impact that the Covid outbreak had on South Africans during the early onset of the pandemic – calling it a “health crisis”, which had major social and economic implications.
“The complex nature of the pandemic required a multipronged, multisector approach and, accordingly, South Africa’s response was comprehensive and visibly led by the president and the minister of health. [The] overall response emphasised saving lives and saving livelihoods.”
He said government took steps to ensure the most vulnerable in society were given some form of protection against effects of the pandemic.