South Africa considering mandatory Covid–19 vaccinations

The South African government has set up a task team that will undertake broad consultations on making vaccination mandatory for specific activities and locations, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced.

In an address to the nation on Sunday evening, Ramaphosa said the task team would report to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Vaccination chaired by the deputy president.

The president’s address comes as South Africa saw a surge in positive Covid–19 cases during the past week following the identification of the new omicron variant.

Ramaphosa said deputy president David Mabuza’s committee would make recommendations to Cabinet on a fair and sustainable approach to vaccine mandates.

“We realise that the introduction of such measures is a difficult and complex issue, but if we do not address this seriously and as a matter of urgency, we will continue to be vulnerable to new variants, and will continue to suffer new waves of infection,” the president stated.

Ramaphosa said he would like South Africans to consider this matter seriously and highlighted that several companies have made vaccinations mandatory.

The president also confirmed that the country’s lockdown restrictions would remain at Alert Level 1.

“In taking the decision not to impose further restrictions at this stage, we considered the fact that when we encountered previous waves of infection, vaccines were not widely available and far fewer people were vaccinated,” Ramaphosa stated.

That is no longer the case, as vaccines are available to anyone aged 12 and above, for free, at thousands of sites across the country.

“We know that they prevent severe disease and hospitalisation. We also know that the coronavirus will be with us for the long term,” Ramaphosa stated.

“We must therefore find ways of managing the pandemic while limiting disruptions to the economy and ensuring continuity.”

However, he warned that this approach would not be sustainable if the vaccination rate doesn’t increase, if people don’t wear masks, and if we fail to adhere to basic health precautions.

In addition to vaccinations, Ramaphosa said there are three other tools we have to fight the omicron variant. They are:

  • Wear face masks whenever in public spaces and the company of people outside our households
  • Fresh air — the cheapest and most abundant tool. When indoors with other people or in cars, buses and taxis, windows must be kept open to ensure air flows freely through the space.
  • Avoid gatherings, particularly indoor gatherings.

“End-of-year parties and matric year-end raves, as well as other celebrations, should ideally be avoided or postponed, and every person should think twice before attending or organising a gathering,” Ramaphosa stated.

“Last year, many of our young people attended these gatherings, and they proved to be centres of mass infections.”

Where gatherings do take place, attendees must closely observe all the necessary Covid protocols.

“Every additional contact we have increases our risk of becoming infected or infecting someone else,” said Rampaphosa.

CSIR senior researcher Ridhwaan Suliman posted a summary of the weekly average statistics, showing a 233% spike in positive cases and a 121% increase in deaths.

This is despite the testing rate only increasing 7%. South Africa’s test positivity rate has hit 5.2% — an alarming increase from last week.

Hospitalisations remain relatively low compared to the increase in positive Covid–19 cases, with an 11% rise over the past week.

Media Hack’s vaccination tracker on The Outlier shows that 14,288,326 people in South Africa have been fully vaccinated, which is 35.6% of adults.

South Africa has administered an average of 80,664 vaccinations per day over the past week.

At this rate, it would take between ten and twenty months for South Africa to vaccinate 67% of its population.

Now read: Experts push for mandatory vaccinations in South Africa

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South Africa considering mandatory Covid–19 vaccinations