Command council extends state of disaster, urges youth to help elderly register for jabs
The national coronavirus command council (NCCC) has recommended that the cabinet extends the national state of disaster to July 15, acting minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni confirmed on Tuesday.
The NCCC sitting took place amid a dramatic shake-up which saw President Cyril Ramaphosa placing health minister Zweli Mkhize on special leave.
Mkhize, whose position will temporarily be filled by tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, has been embroiled in the R150m Digital Vibes tender scandal, which is being investigated by the Special Investigating Unit.
When asked whether the NCCC discussed Ramaphosa’s move, Ntshavheni said, “It is not the place and there is no point for the NCCC to discuss appointments or Digital Vibes because the matter is being investigated by the Special Investigating Unit.”
The council did, however, express its concern about the Northern Cape, North West, Free State and Gauteng, which are experiencing a third wave of Covid-19. KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and the Western Cape are being closely monitored.
Ramaphosa placed the country on adjusted lockdown level 2 after the increasing number of infections. There were minimal changes in the lockdown regulations which included a 11pm-4am curfew, the early closing of non-essential establishments like restaurants, bars and fitness centres, as well as limiting numbers at gatherings.
“There is a concern about the increasing numbers, particularly in Gauteng, where majority of the cases are coming from.”
The council pleaded with South Africans to continue with non-pharmaceutical measures such as wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding crowded spaces, and frequently washing and sanitising hands.
“We would encourage South Africans to limit interprovincial movements as that is how the virus spreads. People should not attend unnecessary gatherings.”
The council expressed satisfaction with phase two of the national vaccination rollout and urged those over 60 to continue to register on the Electronic Vaccination Data System.
“We encourage them to be patient until they are invited to get their jabs or if they have been advised by a community worker to do so. We are also pleading with young people to assist the elderly to register for the vaccine.”
On the vaccines, the council discussed the delays in the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is now on pause due to an international audit by the S’ US. Food and Drug Administration.
The country is now administering the double-dose Pfizer jab to citizens over the age of 60. It is anticipated that a process to vaccinate teachers and non-teaching staff over the age of 40 will begin soon.
“The J&J is easier to administer because it is a single dose, it is easier to store and it is manufactured locally for SA, Africa and the world to use and thus creating jobs in our country and growing the economy.”
The minister said SA was waiting for the US’s Food and Drug Administration to conclude its investigation into concerns around the J&J vaccine.
“There has been a delay in the additional 30 million doses and we are engaging with the FDA for early release. If they can’t, then we will speak to the US government to see if the holdup is only scientific or political. If it is political then we need to engage so that we can get the vaccines,” said Ntshavheni.
The recommendations are expected to be discussed during the cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
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