South Africans can now download the country’s first COVID-19 digital book that focuses on government’s communication efforts during the pandemic.
Officially launched on Friday by the Government Communication Information System (GCIS), the e-book highlights how communication played an important role in the fight against COVID-19, which claimed 102 000 lives in South Africa.
In her opening remarks the Director-General of GCIS, Phumla Williams, said she believes that the e-book titled, ‘Fighting COVID-19 through Communication: A South African Story’, will leave a legacy for others.
She told guests at the event that this project has been emotional and paid tribute to those who have lost their lives since the first case was reported on 5 March 2020.
Williams also reflected on the mistakes and lessons learnt as government communicators worked tirelessly to stop the spread of the Coronavirus outbreak through their reports.
“I think this book is history in the making for us. It showcases what worked and what didn’t. It’s also going to be a book about where we pat ourselves on the back and say: ‘Job well done’.”
William expressed her gratitude to government communicators who were always available to lend a helping hand to ensure that information trickles down to communities in an effort to save lives.
“We had to be innovative. We had to learn to use drones in far-flung areas like in the Northern Cape or use hailers to spread the message,” she recalled.
“Continue to be public servants that I know. Public servants that don’t put money first but put the work of government and citizens of this country forward.”
Williams acknowledged the role of social partners including business and civic organisations that rolled up their sleeves in the fight against the deadly virus that hit the world.
Health Department Acting Chief Director and Child Health Specialist, Dr Lesley Bamford, said the standout feature of the outbreak was the collaboration between government departments at different levels.
Bamford thanked all the communicators, colleagues from GCIS and other departments, partners, private sector, media and social mobilisers for the many hours and all the hard work they put in.
“This will be the first December in three years that the health sector will be able to take our foot off the pedal and have the time to reflect and re-energise and take new challenges in the New Year.”
She said government was looking forward to future collaborations and reminded the room that more still needs to be done around COVID-19 vaccination.
Meanwhile, former Health spokesperson, Dr Lwazi Manzi, described the pandemic as a difficult period and deemed it a privilege to have been the department’s mouthpiece in the middle of the storm.
“As a doctor, a mother, and just someone who has been in science and academia, I can say with absolute confidence that the work that has been done by all of us here has saved millions of lives across the continent.”
Manzi, who is now the Head of the Secretariat of the African Union Commission on COVID-19, said the past three years have been “fascinating”.
“When I go across Africa and the world, the South African communication response is lauded across the world,” she said.
She called on government to put health at the forefront of the political agenda, which is critical in the country’s development agenda.
“Political leaders didn’t take health seriously before COVID-19, it was always a fight to get the attention,” she said.
She believes that health should be a low-hanging fruit for politicians and the first sector they should tackle to create a healthy population.
“Now we know from COVID-19 that if you’re hit by something, everything will collapse – your economy, social fabric, your roads, everything will collapse. But if you fix health and ensure your health systems are in place and can’t be touched by any health crisis, then all the other things fall in place.”
Source: South African Government News Agency