As Covid-19 cases continue to rise in the country, South Africa is set to receive a vaccine for the novel coronavirus by early next year. Still, the first round will only be enough to cover around ten percent of the population.
That is according to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was addressing the nation as part of a Covid-19 update.
Ramaphosa said South Africa has already concluded all the necessary processes to ensure its participation in the World Health Organization (WHO) Covid-19 global vaccine access facility.
“This facility-known as COVAX-pools resources and shares vaccine development risk to ensure equitable access to vaccines when they become available,” said Ramaphosa. “As part of this facility, it is expected that South Africa will receive initial vaccines to cover 10% of our population in the early part of next year.”
South Africa is also part of the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team that is looking at alternative financing mechanisms to secure additional vaccines for African countries beyond COVAX.
— Presidency | South Africa 🇿🇦 (@PresidencyZA) December 14, 2020
“The minister of health is part of this task team and is also looking at innovative partnerships with the private sector to ensure that South Africans have access to an effective vaccine that is suitable to our conditions,” said Ramaphosa.
The WHO is currently working in collaboration with scientists, corporates, and global health organisations to speed up the pandemic response. When a safe and effective vaccine is found, COVAX will facilitate the equitable access and distribution of the vaccines to protect people in all countries. For developing countries, like South Africa, the collaboration helps them compete with wealthier countries, and allows for equitable access to the life-saving vaccine.
Supporting frontline workers
Around the world, healthcare workers have been among the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, and will likely be prioritised in the the vaccine rollout. With over 38,000 South African public sector health workers have tested positive for Covid-19, the President urged South Africans to support these exposed citizens.
“To date, over 30, 000 health workers in the public sector have tested positive for coronavirus. Of these, nearly 5000 were admitted to hospital. Sadly 391 health workers in the public sector have passed away,” said Ramaphosa.
“As we confront the second wave, we must do everything we can to support and protect our health workers.”
The easiest way to support healthcare workers is to practice non-pharmaceutical interventions, he explained. Ramaphosa urged the nation to practice all Covid-19 precautionary measures in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
“I am asking you to wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth whenever in public, or in the company of people you don’t live with. There is no point wearing a mask on your chin, keeping it in your pocket or lowering it to speak to someone,” he said.
“Remember to regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or with sanitiser.”
To curb the spread of the second wave, government announced tighter level one lockdown restrictions nationwide. These came into effect overnight, as the total number of Covid-19 cases topped 866 120.
“If we do not do things differently this festive season, we will greet the new year not with joy, but with sorrow. Many of our friends, relatives and co-workers will be infected, some will get severely ill and some, tragically, will die,” said Ramaphosa.
“Unless we do things differently, this will be the last Christmas for many, many South Africans,” he warned.
New Covid-19 cases spiked, with the daily average of new cases nationally over the last seven days at 74% higher than the previous seven days. In this time, the number of new cases has increased from a daily average of around 3,800 to just over 6,600 a day.
The daily average of Covid-19 deaths has increased by nearly 50% over the same period from just over 100 deaths a day to just over 150 deaths.
— Gauteng Health (@GautengHealth) December 15, 2020
A restricted festive season
Under the tighter level one restrictions, drivers and operators of any form of public transport must ensure that all passengers wear a mask. As South Africans move across provinces over the holiday season, the President urged the nation to remain as vigilant against the virus as they did over the Easter weekend.
Gatherings have also been limited to reduce super-spreader events as South Africans celebrate the festive season. Managers or owners of buildings or premises, including retail stores, must also enforce the rules.
No more than 100 people may gather in one place including churches and mosques while not more than 250 may gather outdoors at any one time. Venues can only allow 50% of capacity.
“This places a responsibility on all owners, managers and employers – and on all of us – to ensure that South Africans are safe whenever they are in any of these places,” said the President.
Break these laws could lead to a fine or even imprisonment of up to six months under emergency regulations.
Beaches out of bounds
Some of South Africa’s most frequented beaches will be shut for the season. Just as Nelson Mandela Bay was declared a coronavirus hotspot with stricter restrictions than the rest of the country, government has also intervened in the Sarah Baartman municipality in the Eastern Cape, and the Garden Route in the Western Cape, as infections spike in these areas.
All beaches in the Eastern Cape and the Garden Route have also been closed. KwaZulu-Natal’s popular beaches which will be out of bounds for the 16th, 25th, 26th and 31st December 2020, and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of January 2021. Beaches in the rest of the Western Cape and the Northern Cape will remain open though.
“The situation will be monitored daily by local authorities to ensure compliance with the regulations on gatherings and the prohibition of alcohol.
“In instances, where there are large crowds or poor compliance with safety measures, specific beaches and recreational parks will be closed,” he said.
Government has also instituted a stricter nationwide curfew, starting at 11pm and ending at 4am. In additions, retail outlets may only sell alcohol between 10am and 6pm from Monday to Thursday. —Health-e News with SAnews.gov