President Cyril Ramaphosa says the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) will be meeting to take stock of the state of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
This as new Covid-19 cases surged by nearly five-fold over the past weeks alone — rising from a positivity rate of about 2% to about 25%.
“We will soon be convening a meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council to review the state of the pandemic. This will enable us to take whatever further measures are needed to keep people safe and healthy,” the President said in his weekly newsletter on Monday.
The President said although the steep rise in infections is a concern, the surge and the emergence of new variants like Omicron were to be expected.
“Disease modellers in our country have told us that we would likely experience a fourth wave around this time and that it was almost inevitable that new variants of the virus would emerge,” he said.
Ahead of the meeting of the NCCC, the President urged people living in South Africa to take extra care and “not wait” for government to issue stricter guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We should not wait for new regulations before we reduce the size of the gatherings, as research has shown this to be an effective means of reducing the spread of the virus. All public and private facilities, including workplaces, taxis, buses and trains, must ensure adequate ventilation to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Every facility that serves the public has a legal responsibility to ensure that people practice social distancing. We must reinvigorate our masking programme, where we insist on no entry into any public or business facility without a mask,” said the President.
He added that as cases continue to rise, the cancellation of big events during the festive season remains “by far the safest and most responsible thing to do now”.
On the Omicron variant, he said although not much is currently known about it, government is hard at work to prepare for any impact it will have on the healthcare system.
“Scientists in our country and around the world are still hard at work to answer critical questions about the new Omicron variant, such as its transmissibility, its progression, whether it causes more severe disease and how effective vaccines will be against it.
“While we do not yet know what impact the Omicron variant will have on hospital admissions, we have been preparing hospitals to admit more patients, and we are investigating how we can quickly secure medication for treating Covid-19.”
President Ramaphosa reiterated the call for all those living in South Africa to vaccinate against Covid-19 and assured the public that the country has enough supplies of vaccines.
He added that vaccination remains a crucial step in South Africa’s economic recovery following the devastation caused by the pandemic.
“As every day passes, and as infections rise, the reasons to get vaccinated become more compelling and the need becomes ever more urgent. Vaccination is essential for our economic recovery, because as more people are vaccinated more areas of economic activity will be opened up. We can do our work and socialise under less stringent restrictions, and our lives can return to some degree of normality.”
Meanwhile, Vooma Week continues until 10 December where vaccination sites will be increased at places with high traffic volumes including travel hubs, shopping malls and recreational sites.
The National Department of Health has declared 3 -10 December 2021 “Vooma Week” in a big push for vaccinations ahead of the festive break.
President Ramaphosa has urged the public to take advantage of the opportunity to get the jab.
“I call on all South Africans to go out and get vaccinated without delay. If necessary, take advantage of the Vooma Vaccination Weekends that make it easier to visit the facility closest to you. Let us all play our part in South Africa’s social and economic recovery. Let us do the responsible and right thing for our own health and for the health of others,” he said.
Vaccine mandate Task Team
President Cyril Ramaphosa is awaiting a report on South Africa’s possible introduction of vaccine mandates.
“We are expecting a report from the Task Team we have set up as well as the Inter-Ministerial Council,” said the President on Sunday.
The President emphasised the need to act with speed “so that Cabinet can take a decision on the matter.”
This as the country faces a rising wave of Covid-19 infections.
“When the National Coronavirus Council Committee meets, I am expecting a report from the Task team that we have set up. Of course, it could be slowed down by the intensity of consultations and talking to various sectors of society and if that is the report, I am willing to allow that to ensue but we cannot waste too much time on that,” he said.
The President said that he is expecting the turnaround time to be quick. However, he did not close the door on consultations. “I will listen to that and if needs be, I will also be willing to engage with some of those constituencies.”
He said he would like to see discussion around making vaccination mandatory.
“I would like a discussion to ensue in the country. We live in a country where a number of people have strong views for and against mandatory vaccination. My task as a leader is to nudge everyone in the same direction and through the dialogue that we should have, hopefully we will get everyone to move in the direction where we will all be aware as South Africans about the danger of being unvaccinated.”
He reiterated that vaccines are the strongest weapon against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I believe very strongly in vaccinations and they are one of our strongest weapons against Covid-19. I believe that we should give our people a chance so that they can go through this and see the dangers of not being vaccinated.”
State Visit to Ghana
The President who is on a four-nation visit of West Africa, wrapped up his State Visit to the Republic of Ghana on Sunday.
“The engagements between ourselves as Presidents and our delegations were just outstanding; they were not the usual stale type of State discussions. There were a lot of discussion, innovation, new ideas that came to the fore, and we have been able to consolidate our relationship. We gave meaning and life to the Bi-national Commission (BNC).
He said that when South Africa and Ghana meets in two years’ time again, the two countries will be able to take the relationship to another level.
“For me the cherry on top was getting the Business Council to be a substructure of the BNC, where each time we meet we will have business not just being an appendage, but being part of the discussions. [Business] will be able to raise issues of concern, issues that have got to do with a conducive climate and lack thereof for them to do business,” said President Ramaphosa.