Remarks by Acting Minister of Health Mmamoloko Kubayi at media briefing focusing on South Africa’s response to Covid-19 pandemic
Good morning and welcome to everyone who has joined us for this press briefing.
On Monday, the COVID-19 death toll breached 70 000 and for as long as the number of infections continue to rise, the death toll will continue to increase.
This requires all of us to do everything we can to ensure that we both bring the number of infections and the number of deaths down.
For us to achieve this, requires us to continue to practice the non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccinate - the two interventions are not mutually exclusive.
Getting vaccinated does not mean you cannot get infected, it lowers the risk of severe symptoms and death. Non-pharmaceutical interventions remain critical for bringing down the number of infections.
In the last 24 hours, there were 13 751 new cases, which is a significant decrease from that of the day before which had 17 351 new cases. Despite the spike that we saw on Wednesday, the number of new cases has been on a downward trend.
We are however, concerned about the rise of numbers in the Western Cape which have now surpassed Gauteng in the number of new cases in the last 24 hours. If you can recall, Gauteng has been the epicenter of third wave and now the majority of new cases in the last 24 hours are from Western Cape with 29% of the new cases, followed by GP with 27% new cases.
We will keenly watch this situation so that if the numbers continue to rise we can introduce the necessary interventions.
It is important to remember that in anticipation of this, we had Dr Cloete from the Western Cape province with us in one of our session to share their surge response.
Dr Anban Pillay has joined us today to unpack the epidemiological trends based on what we observed thus far.
Although as a country we have reached and passed the peak of the third wave, there are provinces that are still on the upward trajectory especially Western Cape and Kwazulu-Natal.
In other provinces such as North West, Free State and Northern Cape the number of cases have been relatively low but containment measures in these provinces are still critical in managing the pandemic.
This week we have invited Dr Sandile Tshabalala from the province of KwaZulu-Natal, to present their surge response and interventions in managing the pandemic.
As the President mentioned in his address last Sunday, our country and our continent has been able to secure vaccines and will in the future be able to manufacture vaccines on our continent.
This means the uncertainty around vaccine supply is a thing of the past and our vaccination problem will be significantly fast tracked.
This week our vaccine supply was constrained, which negatively affected the rate of vaccination as some of the sites ran out of vaccines and people had to be turned away.
The good news is that we received more vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and more Pfizer vaccines are expected in the coming days.
Dr Nicholas Crisp will provide the details on the number of vaccines we already have and what we are expecting in the coming days.
The certainty of vaccine supply means that we will have sufficient vaccines to meet our immediate needs.
Last night, I received MAC on Vaccine advisory which I present to the NCCC and IMC on Vaccine. This relates to questions being asked about opening up for more vaccine to meet our demand. The advisory focused on Sinovac and AstraZeneca. We will communicate government’s decision in a week’s time.
In this week we were expecting the number of vaccinated people per day to reach the President’s target of 300 000.
However, due to the constrained vaccine supply this week, the number of vaccinated people per day was around 220 000 which is likely to be the average this week.
At the present rate of vaccination, we are currently vaccinating 1 million people in four days.
The number of vaccinated people has just surpassed another milestone of 7 million.
With the expected vaccine batches from J&J and Pfizer in the coming days, we are expecting the vaccination to pick up the momentum such that we will reach 400 000 vaccinations per day by the end of the week.
By reaching this target, we will be able to vaccinate I million people in 3 days.
By the time we open for people between the ages of 18 and 34 to be vaccinated from the 1st of September 2021 we will be able to respond to the demand that this cohort will generate.
We are joined today by Dr Jabu Mtsweni from the CSIR who will present vaccination projections based on trend analysis so that we can better understand how quickly we will be able to vaccinate the majority of our people.
Yesterday, I visited two workplace vaccination sites in the North West.
The first visit in North West was to the Sibanye Stillwater mine vaccination initiative for mining employees and the second was to the Sun City vaccination site in which I took my first shot of the Pfizer vaccine.
The Sun City site is currently vaccinating workers in the hospitality sector, not only Sun City worker, but for workers in all the surrounding hospitality businesses.
Soon, both these sites will be opened up for vaccination of the surrounding communities.
These are examples of how the private sector is collaborating with government to bring vaccine to the people.
I must reiterate that we all have freedom of choice and not one can force you to take a vaccine, not even your employer. Let me repeat employers cannot force their employees to take a vaccine.
Throughout this period of the pandemic our healthcare workers are our heroes and heroines and we thank them for the great work they continue to do, the people they have cared for and lives they have saved.
Let us not be tired of complying with the regulations that are aimed at containing the spread of the virus and let us continue to practice the Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions so that we can protect ourselves and our families and friends.