South Africa’s leading farmers’ organisation, Agri SA, has called on the nation to unite behind the thousands of exhausted healthcare workers who are still on the frontline of the covid-19 pandemic.
Agri SA executive director Christo van der Rheede says these workers are sacrificing themselves while desperately trying to cope with the increasing number of covid-19 patients at hospitals across the country. This comes as a second wave of coronavirus infections hit Mzansi just before Christmas, driven by a rapidly spreading new strain.
“Our country is in the midst of a serious health crisis. People are dying at an unprecedented rate. Many families have experienced the trauma of losing a loved one. Others have lost more than one,” says Van der Rheede.
“This pandemic is now affecting the young and the old, and no one is sure about how it will impact them. Some are lucky that they will only experience mild symptoms. Others become gravely ill and others succumb due to pneumonia and other underlying illnesses.”
Exhausted healthcare workers
Describing the pandemic as “real”, the Agri SA boss reiterated that “there rests a massive responsibility on all South Africans to do everything in their power to stop the further spread and trauma caused by the virus.
“Let us spare a thought to the thousands of doctors, nurses and other health workers who are sacrificing themselves to take care of everyone who is currently affected by the virus. The sudden surge in covid-19 cases is putting a lot of pressure on the health care system no matter how well prepared they are.”
He is concerned by the great exhaustion faced by healthcare workers, adds Dr Zweli Mkhize, the minister of health.
“Most of the hospitals are filling up. The real challenge for us with staff is that there is a huge amount of exhaustion.
“People have been working since the first wave, which was really a lot of pressure and a huge burden as there was no rest. Then of course this came quite soon without most people having to get much rest.”
Van der Rheede says, “The situation is worsened by the high number of healthcare workers who are also contracting the virus. We are therefore thankful for every worker who continue to serve thousands of sick patients despite the risks they themselves face. This is certainly no easy job. It is life-threatening and they need our support.”
‘Don’t embarrass agriculture’
Agri SA appeals to the public and especially the nation’s farmers, agricultural workers and the broader agricultural sector to be vigilant at all times and to take every precaution possible to avoid contracting and spreading the virus.
“We all also appeal to those who continue to dismiss the seriousness of the pandemic and spreading false news about so-called conspiracy theories or so-called healing effects of quick fix animal ‘vaccines’ to refrain from it.
“This is not only embarrassing for the sector, but also dangerous. Leave it to the world’s leading virology scientists to determine the best possible, safe and most effective treatment to fight the covid-19 pandemic,” say Van der Rheede.
Agri SA, however, is concerned with what it describes as “the lack of urgency by the South African government to access and secure enough vaccines for our people. More resources must be made available to assist our scientists and bolster their capacity to come up with medical solutions based on rigorous and proven scientific research to overcome this pandemic.”
Negative impact on agri-businesses
Also, the farmers’ organisation is worried about the impact of the adjusted level three restrictions on the economy, especially small businesses in the wine farming, tourism, entertainment and alcoholic and beverage industries. Van der Rheede says, “The relevant ministries must provide the necessary assistance and guidance to these sectors to help them to remain in business and keep people employed.”
He adds, “The pandemic, it seems, will be with us for some time. Let us support our health care professionals and workers, invest in scientific research, secure large amounts of effective vaccines timeously and assist small businesses and economic sectors that are facing real hardship as a result of the level three restrictions. This pandemic is not insurmountable. However, we must prioritise and be rational at all times.”