But cloth masks are cheap, they can now be found almost anywhere, and the inconvenience of wearing one is far, far better than becoming infected or infecting others.
Wearing a mask every time we leave home is far, far better than a second wave.
It is also far better than a return to lockdown and better than having to shut down the economy.
A number of outbreaks have been linked to indoor gatherings where there is poor ventilation and no social distancing.
Of course with the festive season approaching it is understandable that we will want to be with family and friends. It has been a stressful and traumatic year. We want to socialise and connect with each other.
But this doesn’t mean we should let our guard down.
We must remember that every additional person we come into contact with increases the chances of transmission.
We should avoid large gatherings. We should rather meet in small groups.
If we must go out, we should limit contact with others.
And that the preliminary data from the research suggests that it may be more than 90% effective.
This changes our perspective of the future of the coronavirus pandemic.
This development brings new hope in our fight against this virus.
South Africa is collaborating with several multinational pharmaceutical companies to obtain a safe and effective vaccine for our people and is contributing towards the availability of the vaccine in the rest of the continent.
We are working through the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to acquire and fund a vaccine for the African continent.
Fellow South Africans,
From the onset of this crisis, we have sought to both save lives and protect livelihoods.
That is why in April we introduced a massive economic and social relief package to limit the effects of the pandemic on companies, workers, households and communities.
This intervention was essential to keep businesses afloat, to protect jobs and to prevent millions of people from going hungry.
Now, as our economy has been steadily opening up and restrictions on movement and activity have been eased, we have been able to turn our attention from these emergency measures towards an ambitious plan of economic reconstruction.
Through the various interventions that we are making to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are shifting from relief to recovery.
As the economy starts to recover, many of the measures in the relief package are steadily being wound down.
We are trying – within our limited resources – to ensure this is a gradual transition.
We recognise that some industries are still not able to operate fully and that it will take some time for many jobs to return.
That is why we extended the Special COVID-19 Grant for a further three months, until January 2021.
This will provide much needed income to around 6 million people who are unemployed and do not receive any other form of government grant.
Following extensive discussions with our social partners, the UIF will extend the COVID-19 UIF Ters benefit scheme by another month, to 15 October 2020.
Discussions continue with our social partners on support for businesses in distress going forward, mindful of the need to ensure that the UIF has sufficient funds to meet the anticipated rise in unemployment claims.
The COVID-19 UIF scheme has already paid out nearly R53 billion to over 4.7 million workers.
These relief measures were necessary to protect those who are most vulnerable in a time of great distress, but they will have to come to an end.
The relief package has laid the foundation for a robust economic recovery, limiting job losses and keeping afloat many businesses that would otherwise have been forced to close.
As we transition to a new phase in our response, the only way forward is a rapid and sustained economic recovery.
We are therefore working to enable all parts of the economy to return to full operation as quickly and as safely as possible.
We are amending the alert level 1 regulations to restore the normal trading hours for the sale of alcohol at retail outlets.
We are also opening up international travel to all countries subject to the necessary health protocols and the presentation of a negative COVID-19 certificate.
By using rapid tests and strict monitoring we intend to limit the spread of the infection through importation.
We expect that these measures will greatly assist businesses in the tourism and hospitality sectors.
We are focusing relentlessly on the implementation of our plan, pursuing a few priorities with the highest impact and ensuring that we deliver on these.
on the path to recovery.
My Fellow South Africans,
We have lost many lives to this pandemic.
Many of us have had to bid farewell to a loved one, a friend or a colleague.
As we look back on a year of much pain and sorrow, it is important as a nation that we should honour and remember all those who have succumbed to this disease.
It will be appropriate that during the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children – which is the second pandemic we are confronting – we demonstrate our remembrance of all those who have departed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and gender-based violence.
Cabinet has decided that from the 25th to 29th of November, the nation should embark on five days of mourning for the victims of COVID-19.
We will let the national flag fly at half-mast throughout the country from 6am to 6pm from Wednesday 25 November to Sunday 29 November.
We call upon all South Africans to wear a black armband or other signs of mourning to signify our respect for those who have departed.
We call upon all South Africans to demonstrate their solidarity and do this in remembrance of our countrymen and women, in recognition of the grief that we share as a nation, and as an affirmation of our determination to overcome this devastating disease.
My Fellow South Africans,
As I address you this evening, the country has just received the deeply sad news of the passing of the outgoing Auditor-General Mr Kimi Makwetu.
During his term as Auditor-General, Mr Makwetu served his country with dedication, with distinction and with integrity.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time of great sorrow.
As a nation, let us continue to do what we know must be done to keep ourselves and others safe.
Let us continue to demonstrate that we are a people of resilience and courage.
Let us show that we care for one another in sorrow, sickness and in death.
It is our individual actions over the next few weeks and months that will decide the fortunes of our nation.
The actions we must take are straightforward, but they are not insignificant.
They can and do save lives.
Let us continue to work together like the great South African family that we are to restore, to recover and to rebuild.
May God bless our beautiful country South Africa and protect her people.
I thank you.