South Africans mark Mandela Day with focus on fighting COVID-19

Nelson and Winnie Mandela soon after his release from prison. REUTERS

South Africans on Saturday marked the Nelson Mandela International Day with a focus on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The best way to mark the event was to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, the government said, appealing to the public to continue observe social distancing.

Unlike previous years, no massive celebrations were held this year due to the pandemic.

The day came amid an exponential increase in infections in some provinces. As of Friday, South Africa’s cumulative number of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped to 337,594, up by 13,373 from Thursday.

Meanwhile, the country reported a further 135 COVID-19 deaths, bringing the death toll to 4,804.

The government reiterated its call to all South Africans to stay safe and minimize the spread of the virus by making preventative measures part of their cultural and religious practices.

These include maintaining a physical distance of 1.5 meters, regularly washing hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer, and wearing a mask when in public.

South Africans had experienced 114 days of different levels of a phased lockdown, whose aim was to flatten the infection curve.

“Stay safe, Protect South Africa, Together we can beat Coronavirus,” the government said.

The pandemic has brought to the fore the ideals of Mandela, who embodied the spirit of care, selflessness, sacrifice and resilience as a nation, government spokesperson Phumla Williams said.

The resilience of South Africans has enabled the nation to overcome a number of challenges and it continues to draw strength in its ability to rally for action to defeat COVID-19, said Williams.

As part of his Mandela day activity, President Cyril Ramaphosa spent time with the children of Ikageng Orphanage based in Soweto, Johannesburg in a virtual book reading session organized by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

The aim was to share a special message of solidarity and hope with the young minds of South Africa, his office said.