As President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the downgrade to Level 3 of the national Covid-19 lockdown, he thanked scientists for challenging and pushing the government’s response to the global pandemic.
“We appreciate the diverse and sometimes challenging views of the scientists and health professionals in our country, which stimulate public debate and enrich our response,” he said in his address on Sunday evening.
Ramaphosa announced that most of the economy, which came to a grinding halt under Level 5 restrictions on 27 March, would begin moving again as more of the population returned to work.
News24 reported that the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on Covid-19 came out in support of Professor Glenda Gray, who spoke out against some of the government’s regulations during lockdown.
She accused the government of not consulting the country’s top scientists on lockdown regulations.
Professor François Venter on Sunday told News24 it was unclear who was advising the government on the regulations.
Venter is one of 51 academics who publicly pledged their support to Gray on Saturday after the health department’s acting director-general, Dr Anban Pillay, formally requested the South African Medical Research Council, of which Gray is CEO and president, to investigate her comments to News24.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize rebuked Gray’s comments on Wednesday, calling it “destructive behaviour”.
Ramaphosa praises Ministerial Advisory Committee
On Sunday, Ramaphosa was far more congenial than his Cabinet colleague, saying the government had consulted the MAC since the start of the crisis.
“We are extremely grateful for the work they have done and continue to do to ensure that our response is informed by the best available scientific evidence.”
He said the government was also guided by advice from the World Health Organisation and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
“As we are dealing with a pandemic that affects the lives and livelihoods of all South Africans, it was important that we consult as widely as possible. These consultations have been both necessary and worthwhile, in that we received several constructive suggestions.”
He said the consultations had enriched the thinking in the government, “providing a direct view of the challenges that our people in different constituencies confront”.
“The groups we consulted are as diverse and as varied as the South African people themselves, and all agree that we acted appropriately and decisively to slow the spread of the virus.”