Second quarter roll-out 'is too late'

Numsa blasts government's lax Covid-19 response

Health minister Zweli Mkhize.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA has joined organisations that have criticised government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly its delayed procurement of the vaccine.

Numsa’s general secretary Irvin Jim said on Tuesday that the union appreciated the necessity of reverting to an adjusted level 3 lockdown as the country is confronting a national crisis, with people dying daily.

However, Jim added,  government had failed in its part of the bargain.

“Numsa does not accept that at the time when the rest of the world is rolling out vaccines to save lives of their own people in their respective countries, the ANC government is busy telling us stories, having failed to meet deadlines for the procurement of vaccines. In the last public address by the president, he informed the nation that an amount of R283-million was paid by the Solidarity Fund to the Covax facility.

“Our take is that the South African people deserve a more serious commitment where government by now should have budgeted for and secured a vaccine. In light of the deadly nature of this virus, we reject that government has not yet proved themselves ready or capable of rolling out vaccines for the nation at the beginning of the new year. It is our take that an estimated second quarter roll-out is too late,” Jim said.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Sunday announced plans to get a vaccine, which included that the government was targeting 67% of the population in its strategy to establish herd immunity.

Mkhize said about 10% of people would be covered by the Covax programme. He said bilateral negotiations were in place which could see some vaccines arriving as early as February. The remaining 57% of the population would be targeted by the end of the year.

The move was criticised by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, medical experts and economists.

Jim said government’s strategy on fighting Covid-19 had not been consistent with what is being done in other parts of the world.

“There are a number of countries such as China, Vietnam, New Zealand and others, along with the Communist-ruled Indian state of Kerala, that have responded to this crisis very effectively. International experience shows that testing, tracking and tracing is the most effective way to deal with this pandemic. The South African state has failed to get this right,” Jim said.

Numsa said it also rejected government’s decision to ban the sale of alcohol without any plan to help workers involved in the liquor trade.

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