While South Africans were celebrating the easing of restrictions on the sale of alcohol on Monday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa used most of his speech to deal with the roll-out of the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine.
With the arrival of the first 1 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, the department of health has developed an Electronic Vaccine Data System to streamline the vaccine registration and roll-out process.
This was announced by Ramaphosa on Monday when he addressed the nation regarding government’s effort to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said this new electronic system will allow government “to capture all relevant data associated with the administration of the vaccine” given the huge numbers that have to be inoculated for the country’s herd immunity.
“Our scientists estimate that we will likely reach herd immunity once around 67% of our people are immune. This amounts to around 40 million people in South Africa,” said Ramaphosa.
He said the new electronic system would allow South Africans “to make an appointment as soon as they qualify for a vaccination at the vaccine centre closest to them”.
The system is, according to Ramaphosa, also configured to record vaccinations as they are administered to keep track of the numbers of people who have received and those yet receive the vaccine.
Having received the vaccine delivery earlier in the day, Ramaphosa said the next step was “testing them at the National Control Laboratory” to confirm that their integrity had been maintained during transportation.
From there, Ramaphosa said the vaccines would be distributed across the country to thousands of our healthcare workers “who every day put their own lives at risk to save others”.
He added that provincial health departments had submitted their distribution plans and government had already identified about 200 facilities to which the vaccines can be distributed.
Once government has completed the vaccination of healthcare workers, Ramaphosa said the country will move to phase 2 of the national vaccine strategy, which would entail the vaccination of essential workers, people over 60 years, people with comorbidities, as well as those living in places such as nursing homes and hostels.
In phase 3, the vaccinations will extend to the rest of the adult population.
There was also an indication that the country was still in the process of sourcing vaccines from a number of suppliers to reach the 40 million target that the country has set.
Ramaphosa said the country had acquired an additional 500 000 doses from the Serum Institute of India to arrive later in February.
“We have also secured 12 million doses in total from the global Covax facility, which has indicated that it will release approximately 2 million doses by March,” said Ramaphosa.
In addition to this, he also said government had also secured 9 million vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson, and would be commencing with delivery in the second quarter.
“Johnson & Johnson has contracted Aspen, one of our pharmaceutical companies, to manufacture these vaccines in South Africa,” said Ramaphosa.
He also said Pfizer has committed 20 million vaccine doses whose delivery will commence in the second quarter, with the country also in advanced negotiations with manufacturers to secure additional supplies.
“South Africa will also receive an allocation of vaccine doses through the African Union, which has been negotiating with manufacturers to secure vaccines for the entire continent on a pooled basis.
“Through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team of the African Union, we have to date secured 1 billion vaccines for the entire continent,” said Ramaphosa.
Besides the progress with regards to the vaccines, Ramaphosa also adjusted some of the lockdown restrictions.
He said: “Over the last few days, we have assessed the state of the pandemic. We have sought the advice of experts and consulted with representatives of provincial and local government and traditional leaders.”
He said the clear decline in new infections, hospital admissions and deaths had influenced Cabinet to steadily ease a number of restrictions under adjusted level 3.
The hours of the curfew will now be from 11pm to 4am, while establishments will need to close by 10pm to allow their customers and staff to return home by curfew.
Faith-based gatherings will be permitted, subject to health protocols.
Such gatherings may not exceed 50 people for indoor venues and 100 persons for outdoor venues.
“Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used,” said Ramaphosa.