No Virus Spike After Vote, Get Jabs Urges Dr. Phaahla

Health Minister Dr. Joe Phaahla on Friday said nearly two weeks after the local government elections, there was no evidence of an increase of Covid-19 cases in South Africa.

“We are pleased to report that indications thus far 11 days after the campaigns and voting we have not experienced super spreading after effects,” said Dr. Phaahla.

“Thus, so far not a single province or district has shown signs of a spike in Covid-19 infections.

“We continue to monitor the situation with expert leadership from the NICD and the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19.”

The health minister said over the last four weeks Covid-19 infections in the country have remained stable with daily infection rates of between 200 and 500.

He said the number of active cases was still relatively high even though much lower than the peak periods.

“The positivity rate has remained at an average of 1%, with 16 396 active cases yesterday,” said Dr. Phaahla.

“The number of patients in hospital remains stable, though at 3 636 yesterday, is still a high number with 272 in high care, and 420 in ICU with 164 on ventilation.

“The fatality rate has also gone down with 17 deaths reported yesterday, but one death is too many. These numbers are again a reminder that the virus is still very active.”

Dr. Phaahla warned that a resurgence of infections introducing the fourth wave was possible.

He said Germany and Ukraine were going through their fourth wave.

“Our national team is working with provincial teams to prepare for the fourth wave,” said Dr. Phaahla.

The minister said the health facilities’ readiness plan was addressing areas such as oxygen supply.

He said a bulk supplier has already finalised contingency plans and other areas such as bed capacity, equipment, PPEs, and consumables were also receiving attention.

Dr. Phaahla said retention of staff employed on short-term contracts was a major challenge due to budget shortfalls.

“We are also thankful for technical support from WHO,” said Dr. Phaahla.

“While no one can tell with certainty as to when the fourth wave is coming, there is no doubt that it is inevitable, driven by movement of people and new variants.

“Our genomic sequencing teams are monitoring any variants of concern but thus far there has not been any alarm.

“The other contributor which is movement of people is inevitable as we get closer to the festive season.”

Dr. Phaahla said this makes it more urgent for more people to come forward for vaccination.

“Our vaccination programme remains resilient though facing challenges. Thanks to a dedicated team of managers and fieldworkers at national, provincial, district and local level, both in the public and private sector,” said the health minister.

“I can repeat today that we have the capacity to administer vaccination to all adult South Africans and those resident in the country by end of December 2021.

“Our teams in all provinces are taking vaccines to the people over and above fixed vaccination sites.

“Thanks to these teams and the support of the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), we were able to administer 72 514 doses on 1st November, Election Day, next to 1 000 voting stations.”

The health minister said as of last night 23 684 440 doses had been administered to 15 818 324 individuals constituting 39,75% of the adult population.

“By Monday 15 November we will reach 40% of the adult population with at least one dose of a vaccine,” Dr. Phaahla.

Four provinces are within reach to achieve 50% of the adult population in a matter of weeks.

Western Cape has vaccinated 48,20% of its adult population, the Free State at 46,88%, Limpopo at 44,93%, and Eastern Cape at 45%.

The health minister said: “If the other provinces can start to pull up we can reach 50 % nationally soon”.

Full vaccination is still a bit lower with 13 215 872 individuals – 33,2% of the adult population.

“As we start to use more J&J vaccines for the adults, the fully vaccinated numbers will go up. The uptake by young adults between 18 to 34 years is worrisome at 24.8%,” said Dr. Phaalha, adding that fake news on social media was having a huge impact in dissuading people from taking jabs.

On 12 to 17 year old’s, Dr. Phaahla said 252 934 had been vaccinated by yesterday with a total of 353 065 registered on EVDS.

“We thank the parents and guardians who made this possible and encourage use of forthcoming school holidays for more vaccinations,” said Dr. Phaahla.

“As we mentioned last time that the Sisonke 2 study of J&J boosters for health workers would start soon, this has now started and so far 83 769 health workers have registered and given consent, out of whom 9344 have already received their booster doses.

“We are hoping that all 500 000 health workers who participated in Sisonke 1 will participate again.

“The results will give a better indication of the role of booster doses.”

The health minister said more than 3 million vaccination certificates have been downloaded. He said the technology solution for the QR code verification of the certificate will go live next week. This will allow third parties to verify the validity by scanning the code.

“This weekend, starting from today, has been declared the second leg of the Vooma Weekend Vaccination Campaign by President Ramaphosa and Deputy President Mabuza.

“All Cabinet ministers, deputy ministers, premiers, MECs, public representatives are expected to go out to communities to motivate people to vaccinate.

The minister said the message was simple.

“If we all vaccinate we can have a safe and enjoyable festive season unlike what happened in December 2020 and January 2021,” said Dr. Phaahla.

“We call on all South Africans to heed the Vooma call.”