Vaccinate so that fans can return to stadiums, deputy sports minister pleads

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Cape Town Stadium (Gallo Images)
Cape Town Stadium (Gallo Images)
  • Deputy Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nocawe Mafu has reiterated only 2 000 spectators may fill stadiums for now.
  • On Thursday, she told the National Council of Provinces large crowds can be expected once the nation reaches herd immunity. 
  • Mafu reiterated South Africa needs high vaccination numbers.

South Africa's sports stadiums will only be packed to the rafters again once the country has reached herd immunity, according to Deputy Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nocawe Mafu.

"Mass gatherings are considered a superspreader event. The rationale to allow up to 2 000 spectators at sports events constitutes a relaxation rather than a restriction.

"Before the current alert levels of the risk-adjusted strategy, the regulations indicated that no spectators are allowed," Mafu said.

On Thursday, she was answering questions in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on regulations around sporting events. 

EFF MP Seneanye Betta Lehihi asked Mafu what the rationale was behind imposing restrictions on spectators at sports venues, given how health protocols and social distancing measures were ignored during the municipal elections.

Mafu reiterated that, under current regulations, sports fans were not restricted from stadiums.

She said:

It will depend on the extent to which sports leaders exercise discipline and are able to contribute towards minimising the number of infections. It will depend on the National Coronavirus Command Council whether we increase the number [amount of fans in stadiums].

Recently, international sport in southern Africa effectively ground to a halt as a result of travel bans caused by the new Omicron coronavirus variant.

ALSO READ | Covid-19: Western Cape officially enters a resurgence

European countries and several other nations, including the US and Canada, blocked travel from South Africa and its southern African neighbours. 

This caused a scramble by sports teams and individuals to get home ahead of being forced into mandatory quarantine - or simply to secure a flight home.

In October, sports fans returned to South African stadiums with a maximum of 2 000 spectators permitted entry to, among others, rugby and soccer venues.

DA MP Tim Brauteseth told Mafu sports fans in South Africa watched longingly as Europeans sat in packed sporting venues.

He said:

What South Africans would like from the department is a protocol. Tell us, South African sports fans, how many of us have to get vaccinated? Do we need a vaccination sports passport to get into stadiums? If the department were to set a standard and say if you achieve this, we will open those stadiums again…

In response, Mafu added: "First of all, when we talk of sports lovers, we must not divorce them from the rest of the society. They are part of society.

"As a country, at least 70% [Mafu mistakenly said 40%] needs to be vaccinated. That figure includes sports lovers and those people who want to go to the stadiums. Let's motivate all South Africans to get vaccinated. We need to reach herd immunity."

If you come across Covid-19 vaccination information that you do not trust, read Covid-19 vaccine myths debunked: Get the facts here. If you can't find the facts you're looking for, email us at the address mentioned in the article and we will verify the information with medical professionals.

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