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Ramaphosa announces 20 million more vaccines secured, but vaccination is not mandatory

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa
Written by Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

South Africa has secured 20 million vaccines from Pfizer. Some South African health workers are hesitant about being first in line to receive the Covid-19 vaccine but President Ramaphosa says that is ok.

Following the arrival of the first batch of Covid-19 vaccine, President Cyril Ramaphosa assured the nation that no one will be forced to take the vaccine against their will.

While addressing the nation during his “family meeting” on Monday evening, the president also stressed that there are no plans to restrict movement based on vaccinations.

“I want to be clear. Nobody will be forced to take this vaccine. Nobody will be forbidden from travelling, from enrolling at school, or from taking part in any public activity if they have not been vaccinated,” said Ramaphosa.

“Nobody will be given this vaccine against their will, nor will the vaccine be administered in secret. Any rumours to this effect are both false and dangerous,” he said.

One million doses available

The one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be distributed among the healthcare workers across all nine provinces. According to the president, there are about two hundred facilities that will carry out the inoculation.

“In accordance with our phased rollout strategy, all healthcare workers in the public and private sectors will be prioritised for vaccination. Provincial health departments have submitted their distribution plans and we have identified about 200 facilities to which the vaccines can be distributed,” said Ramaphosa.

The National Department of health has already developed an Electronic Vaccine Data System to streamline the vaccine registration and rollout process, which will capture all relevant data associated with the administration of the vaccine. All adults will be eligible for the vaccine, regardless of their citizenship status. This means undocumented migrants will also be able to receive the vaccine.

Ramaphosa also stressed the importance of achieving what is known as “herd immunity.” This occurs when around 67 percent of the population has either taken the vaccine or has virus antibodies.

“We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to make sure that enough vaccine doses are secured to reach population immunity in our country,” said the president.

Ramaphosa also announced that Pfizer has commuted 20 million doses to South Africa, which will arrive in the second quarter. This adds to the nine million doses secures from Johnson and Johnson, which will also be delivered then. South Africa has also secured 12 million doses from the COVAX facility. The first two million doses will arrive in March.

Lockdowns eased

The president also delivered good news. Hospital admissions have decreased from 2,300 a day during the peak in December, to just 295 as of the end of January. This was reason enough to announce an easing of the lockdown three regulations.

The overnight curfew will now be from at 11pm to 4am and faith-based gatherings are permitted, as long as Covid-19 regulations are in place. The president also lifted restrictions on alcohol, reopened beaches and parks.

The president also urged South Africans to drink responsibly to ensure that hospitals are not overwhelmed with trauma cases or an increase in infections due to reckless behaviour.

The sale of alcohol by licensed premises for off-site consumption will be permitted from Mondays to Thursdays, from 10am to 6pm. Licensed premises like Restaurants and taverns may serve alcohol  on these days from 10am to 10pm. Vineyards, micro-breweries and micro-distilleries are all once again permitted to sell alcohol for off-site consumption.

“It is up to us to protect ourselves, our families and our communities. It is up to us to get vaccinated as soon as we are eligible and stop the virus from spreading further,” the president added.

Several restrictions remain in place

As there is still a high risk of transmission, several prevention measures will remain in place. All adults must still wear masks in public, and no doing so remains a criminal offence.

Social gatherings, political events, traditional council meetings and gatherings at sports grounds are still not permitted. No more than 50 people may attend a funeral, and social-distancing and hand-sanitising must be observed.

“Being in crowded places or spending time in closed, unventilated spaces dramatically increases the risk of contracting the virus,” warned Ramaphosa. “For this reason, you must avoid indoor spaces wherever possible and open windows to limit the spread of the virus through the air.”

“Research has shown that the risk of transmission of the virus is almost twenty times higher indoors than in outdoor settings,” he said. Where possible, people should continue working from home, he added.

For those who test positive, Ramaphosa urged isolation. If this is not possible in the home, government-run Covid-19 isolation wards remain an option.

“If you must have interactions with friends and family do so outside,” Ramaphosa said. —Health-e News with SAnews.gov.za

About the author

Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

Ndivhuwo Mukwevho is citizen journalist who is based in the Vhembe District of Limpopo province. He joined OurHealth in 2015 and his interests lie in investigative journalism and reporting the untold stories of disadvantaged rural communities. Ndivhuwo holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Studies from the University of Venda and he is currently a registered student with UNISA.