14 July 2022
14 July 2022
Welcome remarks by GCIS Deputy Director-General Michael Currin on the Monkeypox Consultative Webinar
Representatives of the Department of Health and NICD,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to welcome you all to today’s stakeholder engagement and consultative webinar on Monkeypox. Thank you for taking the time to be part of this important discussion as we form a united front against another viral disease that again threatens the world.
In mid-June this year, South Africa had its first reported case of Monkeypox. We have subsequently recorded a total number of three cases of the disease. Our Health Authorities have since activated all health protocols to deal with the spread of Monkeypox. As our country is still in the early stages, there needs to be strong coordination between response partners.
GCIS together with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the Department of Health therefore convened an engagement to strengthen our coordination and response. Through coordinated action, we can ensure the effective use of available resources, avoid duplication in efforts and empower South Africans in the fighting against this disease.
We also have the important task to stop the spread of misinformation as well as disinformation of the disease that often leads to panic. In creating awareness and providing accurate, useful and up-to-date information on a frequent basis, we can fight the stigma that accompanies such diseases. In providing reliable information, South Africans were able to make informed decisions.
The National Institute of Communicable Diseases has indicated that although we are recording a certain trend of a breakout, we are not at a pandemic level similar to COVID-19. It is however important for us to learn more about this disease, how to prevent its spread and when and where to seek help.
We are called on once again to educate everyone about the disease as we did before with COVID-19. Part of us being educated about this disease, includes understanding the epidemiology of Monkeypox. Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the Monkeypox virus.
It is part of the same family of variola virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms but it is milder. Monkeypox is rarely fatal. It is not spread simply by being in the environment where there might be somebody infected with the disease. There has to be actual contact with a person who is infected.
As communicators either by profession, training or by the role we play in society, it is important that we know how to communicate about Monkeypox. We must do so factually and in a sensitive manner. Our aim is to use our knowledge and resources to inform and build our communities in dealing with the disease.
We also have the important role as communicators to engage with communities and to deal with any stigma. Let us use all communication resources and platforms at our disposal to us to share accurate information. At all times, we must do so in a caring and sensitive manner.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In the fight against COVID-19, our nation was severely tested on all fronts. We knew that given the magnitude of COVID-19, we needed everyone to play an active role in managing that pandemic.
What had made us get through the COVID-19 storm was the partnerships and involvement of all stakeholders from business, labour, faith based organisations, NGO’s and citizens themselves.
GCIS had played a central role in drawing stakeholders together and presenting to them the facts, as we knew them. We also sought their advice on how to communicate more effectively to their audiences. That collaboration from government communicators and stakeholders had been amazing.
We had built solid partnerships and a common front as we communicated on the COVID-19 pandemic. These partnerships were extremely helpful as it ensured that South Africans received cohesive messaging from all sectors of society. In the same spirit in which we fought COVID-19, we now need to fight against Monkeypox.
We are looking forward to tap into the expertise and insights from the scientists and doctors from the NICD and Department of Health present. Your frank and robust engagement here today will help us better communicate. We appreciate all participants for taking time to be here with us on this platform.
After today’s session, I have no doubt that, working together with DOH & NICD, we will be able to better communicate our preventative messages. We will also be able to produce a concrete communication plan, supported by communication products, which we can be able to share with you.