“From there we saw a strict stay-at-home policy,” he said. “And since then we have gone through a full four waves of the pandemic, with the first three causing major devastation and loss of life across sectors of society.”
Phaahla recalled how thousands of South Africans were unable to visit their loved ones in hospital, and honoured those who were buried under strict conditions “with only a few family members present”.
He said that as lockdowns eased a “risk-adjusted strategy” was implemented and eventually in February 2021, the Sisonke vaccine trial for health workers began, followed by the general rollout of vaccines in May the same year.
“We still have not hit the intended 70% vaccination rate despite capacity to do so, but we take solace in the achievement of 37.7-million doses having been administered and that 22-million people in the country across age groups have had at least one jab.”
The biggest turnout, he added, was in the 60-plus age group, in which 70.5% of people have had at least one dose.