As South Africa – like so many other countries in the world – comes face to face with the COVID-19 virus, our natural fears need to be weighed against our equally natural resilience and courage. As a nation, we’ve weathered numerous catastrophes, including the prolonged rule of apartheid, and emerged triumphant.

We also have a huge advantage which many other nations do not: a President who’s shown himself to be an exemplary, level-headed leader, remaining calm, reasoned and practical in this crisis and averse to the cheap political broadsides, bluster, misleading pronouncements and outright lies which we’ve heard other heads of state telling their bewildered citizens. Halala, President Ramaphosa.

Halala, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, whose foresight enabled the implementation of crucial measures to contain the spread of the virus. And halala to the selfless, dedicated health workers, doctors and nurses working around the clock to assist those in need.

Though our situation has been aggravated by the recent economic downgrading of the country, we know that our first priority – and our first responsibility – is saving lives. Rebuilding our country’s economy and overcoming the deficits created by the present crisis will be our long-term work. Right now, the safety of South Africans is paramount.

We have a proud history in medical research: our scientists and doctors have pioneered many groundbreaking achievements, including the world’s first heart transplant, the invention of the CAT scanner, the first digital laser, the first induced pluripotent stem cells, the first full-body x-ray scanner, the first retinal cryoprobe and the first three-piece single-use syringe. We don’t doubt their ability to find an effective vaccine for the Coronavirus.

For that reason, we call on businesses in every industry and sector to come together and help our scientists do just that. Whether they do so monetarily or by making other resources available, their support will make a massive and speedy difference to the situation.

Businesses should be proactive by taking the lead in this initiative, rather than waiting to be approached by government. Meanwhile, we also call on businesses – and all our citizens – to support the national effort to flatten the COVID-19 curve. A disaster on this scale makes an impact that changes the world forever, just as it was changed by both the world wars of the 20th century. Societies, individuals, the way we live and the way we do business is altered, as we adapt to new structures and find ways to rebuild our lifestyles and enterprises. But this isn’t only bad news: it’s also an exciting and innovative time, when superb opportunities arise to service new markets, driven by new consumer needs. We need to have faith in the future and in the business sector’s capacity to redefine itself.

This is as much a human as a business imperative.

We believe that the “right stuff” – the approximately 58 million South African hearts which ultimately beat together and have earned us our reputation as a caring, warm-hearted, compassionate people – will, as always, prevail.

We also urge all our readers to respect and adhere to the lockdown, be patient and keep their spirits and hope high.

Umntu ngumuntu ngabantu!