To commemorate International Nurses Day on Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa hailed nurses for their "bravery, hard work and commitment" in the fight against Covid-19.
Ramaphosa said the nation owed its well-being to the untiring commitment of nurses, saying their positive impact on people's lives went beyond physical health.
He described them as community leaders, mentors, counsellors and educators providing psychosocial support to people.
"Nurses are the frontline of our healthcare system and we appreciate the dedication with which they perform their duties in public and private hospitals and clinics; in schools; in mines; in pharmacies; in corporate health and wellness programmes; in non-governmental organisations; in faith-based organisations; in sports federations; as volunteers in different settings, and as neighbours who don't mind being woken up in the middle of the night when we need help.
"Currently, nurses are placing themselves between our communities and the unseen enemy we face in Covid-19. We are humbled by their bravery, their hard work and their commitment to putting the interests of all South Africans before their own and those of their own families.
"Let us pause today to celebrate this invaluable and treasured cadre of our society and let us give them our full support and gratitude into the future," Ramaphosa said in a statement.
In his capacity as the chairperson of the South African National Aids Council (Sanac), Deputy President David Mabuza also lauded nurses for their service in the fight against the novel coronavirus, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis (TB).
"We take this opportunity to convey our special and sincere gratitude to all our nurses throughout the country for their dedication in providing healthcare support to our people. Through their dedication and commitment, nurses play an important role in saving lives of our citizens by providing quality treatment and care" Mabuza said.
He called on the nation to celebrate nurses as unsung heroes, risking their lives in the front line to save lives.
The deputy president also called on South Africans to screen for HIV and TB so that they can be put on treatment and not be at greater risk if they become infected with the novel coronavirus.
Exempt tax demand
Meanwhile, healthcare workers trade union Hospersa has demanded more appreciation for nurses as the country battles with Covid-19, reiterating that they need sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE), safer transport and counselling facilities.
Hospersa has also demanded the introduction of a Covid-19 tax relief and special risk allowance for all categories of health workers, including nurses, to show appreciation for their role in the fight against the virus.
"Hospersa honours nurses for their leading role in the fight against Covid-19.
"Nurses' role in our clinics and hospitals could not be more important as they lead the fight against this deadly virus, albeit without sufficient protection and appreciation from their employers in both the public and private sector. Insufficient PPE, staff shortages, poor working conditions and limited support measures continue being a thorn in the flesh in the delivery of quality healthcare as the country ramps up its fight against the coronavirus," said Hospersa general secretary Noel Desfontaines.
Desfontaines said the morale of nurses in the public sector was very low due to meagre salaries, exacerbated by the government's non-implementation of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council salary increase agreement, poor implementation of nurses' uniform allowance and non-translation of nurses who qualified to progress into higher positions.