Nzimande tells Covid-19 seminar: 'The public is fraught with conspiracy theories'

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The Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Innovation, Blade Nzimande.
The Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Innovation, Blade Nzimande.
GCIS
  • Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has hosted a virtual seminar to dispel myths about vaccines and Covid-19 variants.
  • He said the current environment was "fraught" with conspiracy theories that often resulted in poor decision making. 
  • Professor Jeffrey Mphahlele from the SA Medical Research Council said vaccines remained the "cornerstone of controlling infectious diseases". 

Professor Jeffrey Mphahlele from the SA Medical Research Council says vaccines remain the cornerstone for controlling infectious diseases.

Mphahlele was speaking during a virtual seminar to dispel myths about vaccines and Covid-19 variants on Wednesday. 

The seminar was hosted by Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande, who was joined by health professionals and scientists. "Without a vaccine, we will not be able control this pandemic," Mphahlele said.

"In terms of our scientist progress, a lot has been done and I must say that significant progress has already been made in developing vaccines against Covid-19.

"Unfortunately, the virus has proven to be a moving target. We are still learning a lot about the genetic evolution of the virus, immunity to the virus and many other critical information about the virus," he said.  

READ | Fake news and rumours can kill, vaccines save lives - Ramaphosa

Nzimande said fake news and misinformation were at the heart of the urgent need for the seminar to dispel the prevailing myths about vaccines. 

The minister said the current environment was "fraught with all manner of conspiracy theories that often result in poor decision making at both individual and group level".

Towers

"Among these are the 5G myths that have led to cellphone towers being destroyed in some parts of our country," he said.

Last month, the infrastructure of three cellphone network towers were apparently burnt and destroyed in KwaZulu-Natal, following conspiracy theories which link the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic to 5G technology.

READ | WHO will pay out a lump sum for vaccine side effects from Covid-19 Covax programme

The towers belonged to Vodacom and MTN, according to a statement by the Department of Communication. At the time, Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams condemned the incident and urged the police to arrest those responsible.

Nzimande said the public needed to be informed that the virus was "purely biological and has no roots in any Fourth Industrial Revolution technology like 5G".

He said what the country was dealing with was a global pandemic that had disrupted lives and the economy. 

The pandemic has so far claimed the lives of more than 2 million people around the world, and more than 49 000 in South Africa.

Nzimande also said the public needed to be educated about vaccines, which are currently being rolled out.

"Vaccines and vaccinations did not arise with the outbreak of Covid-19," he said.

"While the vulnerability and helplessness of the poor have become more pronounced, the wealthy classes have been able to cushion and insulate themselves against the worst effects of the pandemic. I will be following with interest the discussion of these and related issues in the session on the social impact of Covid-19."

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