The National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), the body comprising government, business, labour and community organisations, has backed calls for government to make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory by barring unvaccinated individuals from accessing workplaces and other public facilities and areas.
Lisa Seftel, Nedlac’s executive director, made the announcement on Tuesday morning at the council’s 26th annual national summit.
“The social partners have agreed that promote vaccinations and protect the country from lockdowns, workplaces should require employees to be vaccinated to enable occupational health and safety, and that there needs to be access restricted to certain venues, events and gatherings only to vaccinated people,” Seftel said.
The announcement comes as more companies in South Africa are adopting vaccine mandates as the country battles the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, which has been driven by the Omicron variant.
Although government decided to keep the country under adjusted alert level 1 late last month, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced he had appointed a task team that would undertake broad consultations on making vaccinations mandatory for specific activities and locations.
The announcement wasn’t met without opposition from some South Africans with some unions, parties and civil society organisations threatening to challenge vaccine mandates in court.
Ramaphosa is expected to receive a report from the task team when he returns from his four-nation visit to West African nations this week.
Seftel said while Nedlac was in favour of vaccine mandates to ensure that the country achieves herd immunity and avoids damaging lockdowns on the economy, the council believes that more should be done to incentivise and encourage citizens to get jabbed.
“The most important measures that all social partners agree on is ramping up vaccinations, including through positive and negative incentives, is critical as well as the ongoing and enforcing of non-pharmaceutical interventions,” Seftel said.
Seftel said Nedlac was not in support of the large gatherings allowed under lockdown level 1 because they contributed to the spike in SA’s reported Covid cases.
The maximum number of people permitted to gather indoors is 750 and the maximum number of people allowed to gather outdoors is 2,000.
“Business, labour and community are not supportive of these large number of gatherings and I think government knows that.
“They also know that we should not be limiting restrictions on the impact of the economy, especially tourism, hospitality alcohol and leisure. And that where possible we must continue to provide effective relief,” she said.