EXPLAINER | Ramaphosa's address to the nation: Move to Level 2, vaccine safety and efficacy and elections

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  • President Cyril Ramaphosa used most of his address to the nation on Sunday evening to focus on the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines. 
  • Ramaphosa also announced the country would move to Level 2 lockdown. 
  • He also focused on the upcoming local government elections. 

While President Cyril Ramaphosa used his address to the nation to announce a move to Level 2 lockdown, he spent much of his speech focusing on Covid-19 vaccines and their safety and efficacy.

Ramaphosa's address specifically focused on the vaccine programme, where he once again used the time to allay fears around receiving the jab. 

Vaccine efficacy and safety 

Using data from the Western Cape Department of Health, he painted a picture of the efficacy of the vaccines. 
The president said between 14 and 20 August, in the 60 years and above age group, 729 people were admitted to hospitals for Covid-19. Of the 729 people aged 60 and above, only 30 had been vaccinated. 

"This means that 699 of those were not vaccinated," Ramaphosa said. 

"And of the 292 people above the age of 60 who died from Covid-19 that week, 287 of them were not vaccinated, meaning only five were vaccinated.

"In other words, 96% of the people over 60 who were hospitalised in the province and more than 98% of the people over 60 who died were not vaccinated."

READ | ‘This is much better’ - Extra hour for restaurants, taverns under level 2

He added a similar pattern had emerged in hospitals across the country.

While the president conceded vaccinated people could still be infected and pass the SARS-CoV2 virus onto others, he said the data proved few people who have been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus became severely ill with the disease, and even less ended up in ICU or needing ventilation.

"Most importantly, people who are vaccinated against Covid-19 are far less likely to die of the disease."

- Ramaphosa revealed more than a quarter of all adult South Africans had received at least one vaccine dose, while more than 7 million people are fully vaccinated to date. 

- He said in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Western Cape, more than one in five adults was now fully vaccinated.

- The total number of vaccine doses administered in the country now stands at 14.6 million doses.

- The president added South Africa was currently administering a million doses every four to five days.

- The government had secured sufficient vaccines to vaccinate the entire adult population, and the supply of vaccines is no longer a constraint.

- Around 57% of people over 60 years of age have been vaccinated in South Africa. 

- The president reiterated there was now overwhelming evidence from hundreds of countries vaccines were safe and provided strong protection.

- Ramaphosa added while the third wave of infections was not yet over, the country had seen a sustained decline in infections over the last few weeks.

- The average number of daily new infections over the last week is 29% lower than the preceding seven days and 48% lower than the seven days before that.

Level 2 lockdown 

Ramaphosa also announced the country would move from Level 3 to 2 from Monday, which will see the relaxing of several regulations. 

It means: 

- The curfew will now start at 23:00 and end at 04:00.

- Non-essential establishments like restaurants, bars and fitness centres will need to close by 22:00.

- All gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors. Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50% of the venue's capacity may be used. This includes religious services, political events and social gatherings, restaurants, bars, taverns and similar places.

- The sale of alcohol from retail outlets for off-site consumption will be permitted between 10:00 and 18:00 from Monday to Friday.

- Alcohol sales for on-site consumption will be permitted as per licence conditions up to 22:00. Alcohol consumption remains prohibited in public spaces.

Local government elections and Covid-19

While the move to Level 2 means more people can attend gatherings, political parties, which will be electioneering in preparation for the local government elections on 1 November, will still have to adhere to the limitations imposed. 

However, Ramaphosa said these measures would be reviewed in two weeks, depending on the state of the pandemic.

He added while South Africans would go to the polls in 50 days time, it was vital the country did everything in its power to prevent a resurgence of infections.

"At the same time, we need to ensure that the pandemic does not limit the ability of all South Africans to freely exercise their democratic right to elect their local councillors."

ALSO READ | Level 2: Liquor stores now open on Fridays

Ramaphosa said he discussed these issues with political party leaders earlier in the week and there was a firm commitment from all parties that election campaigning should adhere to the state of disaster regulations and all health protocols.

"We urge all South Africans to exercise their right to campaign responsibly and take care to safeguard their own health and the health of others."

He also announced further information on an approach to "vaccine passports", which can be used as evidence of vaccination for various purposes and events, would be provided.

Meanwhile, wearing masks in public remains mandatory, and it remains a criminal offence not to do so. 

Funerals remain restricted to no more than 50 people, while night vigils, after-funeral gatherings and "after tears" gatherings remain prohibited.

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