Health minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: GCIS
Health minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: GCIS

The government has established a multisectoral ministerial advisory committee on social behavioural change as part of its fight to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The committee, made up of civil society organisations, NGOs, religious leaders and traditional leaders, was convened jointly by health minister Zweli Mkhize and social development minister Lindiwe Zulu.

SA has been in a lockdown to curb the spread of the virus since March. On June 1 the lockdown was eased to level 3 of the risk adjusted strategy which saw majority of the economy open up and about 16-million people return to work.

The regulations are set to ease even further in June with the government looking at allowing more sectors of the economy such as sit-down restaurants and hair salons, among other things, opening up earlier than planned.

The government is facing legal challenges to some of the lockdown regulations gazetted during the national state of disaster. It is also challenging a high court judgment which found level 4 and 3 regulations to be invalid and unconstitutional.

SA has over  73,500 cases of Covid-19 and has recorded more than 1,500 deaths.

Mkhize on Tuesday said the collective discipline and co-operation of citizens during the lockdown is what lead to SA  flatten the curve, pushing the peak of the virus out by a few months.

“What we are seeing now is nothing compared to that had we not made the sacrifices that we made. At the beginning, the rate of spread was doubling every second day — but during lockdown, we reduced the doubling time to every 15 days.

“But now, as we reopen the economy amidst rising infections, we appreciate more and more the difficulty of sustaining what feels unnatural,”  Mkhize said.

He said behavioural change needed constant reinforcement and affirmation. It needed the entire buy-in of individuals, communities, societies, cultures and various social groupings.

“As a consultative government, we are particularly excited about this initiative [the committee] as we look forward to gaining deeper insight into the desires and will of our people and how we can partner together to achieve the things we know we are capable of achieving.” 

Mkhize said the fight against Covid-19 was going to be won at home, in churches, in  taxis, on the streets, in restaurants, and in every part of citizens social lives. This all needed behaviour change.

“It is not about whether there is a curfew or there is a policeman watching your movements. This is now about every South African taking the fight on.

“We need to build a new culture — at a ward and district level — so that everyone out there knows that there is one message, and that was the message sent to us by the president: that we need to hold each other’s hands and fight this pandemic together,”  he said.

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