Covid-19: The scope for vaccinations in South Africa needs to be wider

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on June 27 the country will move into an adjusted level 4 lockdown for 14 days. This was response to the third wave gripping South Africa. Restrictions included a ban of alcohol, both on and off-consumption and no sit-down service in bars and restaurants. The Federated Association of Hospitality (FEDHASA) has called the restrictions a “certain death knell” for anyone in the industry.

Vaccinations in South Africa are now open to citizens who are aged 50 years old and above. As of June 30, a little over three million South Africans have been vaccinated, the department of health said. The Restaurant Association of South Africa has asked as an industry targeted for the spread of COVID, why has the roll-out not included them? We took a look at the call for a more inclusive and far-reaching approach to the current vaccine roll-out.  

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In light of the third wave in South Africa, the Shoprite Group made an urgent appeal to the government to vaccinate its frontline workers. Shoprite is South Africa’s largest private sector employer. The group said they will source and administer vaccinations at its own cost and through its own logistics and pharmaceutical infrastructure. The group is eager to accelerate the vaccine roll-out while absorbing the costs. 

“Our people interact with 25 million customers coming into our stores every month, and it is critical that they be vaccinated,” Pieter Engelbrecht, Shoprite Group CEO said. “We strongly believe that they should be prioritised and we are ready to roll out vaccinations on behalf of the government to our employees who continue to go the extra mile in challenging conditions to keep serving customers,” he said.

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Keeno-Lee Hector of Barakat fame has been a freelancer in the entertainment industry for over 25 years and says he has grown a thick skin in dealing with lean times. He says he is trying to remain positive, and that government vaccinating through groups makes sense but the rollout is agonizingly slow. If more people were vaccinated, certain industries could possibly re-open. The vaccine isn’t a cure, all protocols still need to be practiced, Hector said. 

Statistics South Africa reported that over 600 000 formal sector jobs have been lost in the country, during the Covid-19 lockdown periods of 2020. The National Income Dynamics Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) is a nationally-representative panel survey of 10,000 South African individuals conducted every month. The survey is a nationally representative survey of how the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown impacted South African households, with a focus on income and employment.

In its latest employment report the study showed that between October 2020 and January 2021, the percentage of employed adults (18-64 years) in the NIDS-CRAM cross-sectional sample declined from 55% to 52%. 

“I have already lost 3 contracts this year, since numbers started increasing a couple of months ago. While I sympathise with everyone affected in hospitality, my thoughts are especially with people involved in entertainment or eventing. Most of these careers have seen their entire industry denigrated. If I hadn’t made other plans I would be dead in the water as well,” Hector said. 

Dr Ashraf Davids runs the Infectious Diseases Clinic at Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital. He told The Daily Vox that many more people should be vaccinated to reach herd immunity targets. 

“I am fully behind pushing the roll-out across sectors before a fourth wave hits us to get that 66% target that is needed for herd immunity. These waves impact industries especially the hospitality industry, and more vaccinations will help these industries so adversely affected in these stricter lockdowns, caused by waves that become unmanageable,” Dr Davids said. 

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There have been many calls across social media for retail workers and taxi drivers to be included as a priority in the vaccination rollout. 

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