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President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on citizens to refrain from stockpiling on groceries as government intensifies its efforts to contain the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The President said this when he met with leaders of all political parties at Tuynhuys, in Cape Town, on Wednesday, to discuss the response to the virus, which he declared a national disaster on Sunday.

He said this as shelves in major retailers ran low on several items, including toilet paper and sanitisers.

“We call on all citizens to refrain from making excessive purchases.

“It is important to understand that the supply of goods remains continuous, supply chains remain intact, and there is no need for stockpiling of any items,” he said.

The message was echoed by leaders of opposition parties, including DA leader John Steenhuisen.

Steenhuisen also called on the private sector to get involved in efforts to tackle the virus and added that their role was critical as the virus had the potential to negatively impact the economy.

“The second appeal I would like to make is to our fellow citizens out there to stop the panic buying. It is not necessary.

“We can beat this virus and we can get through this but it is going to require all of us to be calm, but deliberative in our approach,” he said.

Calls for big business not to use state of disaster for profit

The President, meanwhile, called on citizens to improve their personal hygiene in order to contain the virus from spreading as the Department of Health announced that 31 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 116.

“An effective response also requires heightened levels of personal responsibility on the part of citizens. This includes personal infection control measures such as regular hand washing, avoiding public gatherings and maintaining a distance from other people.

“Personal responsibility also means that we should avoid behaviour – such as unnecessary physical contact or excessive alcohol use – that increases the chances of infection. We should be alert to disinformation, rumour and fake news and ensure that we do not disseminate it,” he said.

EFF leader Julius Malema called on big businesses to refrain from using the state of national disaster to make profits.

“We call upon all business people dealing with gloves, sanitizers, masks not to try and maximise profits out of this crisis. We also call upon the private hospitals that the only way to avoid the nationalisation of those private hospitals is by fully cooperating with the Minister of Health when he needs beds for our sick people. It is not time to make profit,” he said.

ACDP calls on churches not to pray in mass gatherings

On Sunday, the President announced that one of the directives to contain the virus was to avoid mass transmissions and gatherings of people in groups of more than 100 people is prohibited.

ACDP leader Reverend Kenneth Meshoe reiterated the call.

“And maybe lastly I must make an appeal to churches that we need to cooperate with government. What the President said on Sunday makes sense and in order to contain this virus, we need to cooperate and I also want to appeal to churches to pray for a solution. When churches pray, then God is able to intervene,” he said.

Political parties agree to work together to contain COVID-19

The President said, meanwhile, that Parliament’s political parties are standing together, across party political divides, to fight this disease together.

“Regardless of our political differences, all leaders share a common desire to keep our people safe, to mitigate the impact on our economy, and ensure that the inevitable disruption to lives and livelihoods is reduced,” he said.

He said that following their meeting, which lasted for almost two hours, parties had agreed on a number of principles:

– The severity of the COVID-19 threat requires an exceptional response that draws on all the resources and capabilities of our nation; that this response needs to be immediate and that it needs to be sustained. Parties therefore support the measures that government has announced;

– The overwhelming concern of all parties must be for the health and the well-being of all South Africans, particularly the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable. The actions and the decisions taken must be informed by this imperative;

– While COVID-19 poses a great threat to the nation, there is much that can be done as a country and as individual citizens, to slow the spread of the disease, to save lives and improve health outcomes, and to bring the epidemic to an end;

– An effective popular campaign against this disease depends on the provision of regular and accurate information to the public; and access for all to screening, testing and treatment. It demands on transparency and accountability from the responsible authorities.

The President also said that party leaders called for:

– Water to be provided to destitute communities;

– A greater focus on prevention in the public transport system;

– Consideration of various measures to support businesses, such as a UIF contribution holiday and accelerated processing of VAT refunds;

– A particular focus on food security, particularly for the poor;

– A proposal for the departments of Health and Defence to establish centres for testing, water distribution and services, especially in rural areas

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