On Friday morning, South Africa’s vaccination certificate, which has been in its testing phase over the past three days, will officially be launched.
Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla said in his regular Covid-19 briefing that the system was formally in the first phase, and hoped the certificate would be perceived as a powerful tool to enable citizens to access an array of opportunities.
Some incentives include sports and recreational events gradually opening up, the entertainment sector gaining life, and, importantly, travel and tourism.
Phaahla said he was pleased with the UK removing South Africa from its travel red list on Thursday, and was also excited the region had confirmed it recognised our vaccine certificate.
Bye bye, third wave
Phaahla confirmed on Friday that South Africa had officially exited the “long-drawn” third wave, and has been third wave-free since 27 September.
The third wave lasted longer than the previous two waves – close to 110 days. In comparison, the first wave lasted around 80 days, and the second about 90 days.
There has been a 33% reduction in new infections over the last week, and a 19.3% decrease in hospitalisation, providing much-needed relief for healthcare workers.
Deaths have decreased by 51% over the last seven days, and the virus is reproducing at a rate below 1% – 0.67% to be precise.
This, Phaahla said, was an important indicator that the country was entering “stable territory”.
Overall positivity rates across provinces have been below 5% over the past two weeks, with an average positivity rate of 3% over the last seven days. There are some concerns that positivity rates in the Free State and Northern Cape have peaked above 5%, however.
989 new infections were recorded on Thursday, a huge improvement from earlier in July, where around 20,000 new infections were being reported daily.
But in the same breath, Phaahla emphasised this was not a ticket for citizens to let their guards down.
“The pandemic is not over. We have just been giving a breathing space, which can be longer if we behave properly and avoid risky behaviour, and observe personal hygiene and safety measures.
“The virus is still in our midst.”
Phaahla said over 5,000 people were currently hospitalised with Covid-19, 885 of which are in ICU and 465 on ventilators.
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Vaccine progress and child vaccination
13.3 million people in South Africa have been vaccinated, which accounts for 33.4% of the adult population.
Almost 19 million doses have been administered.
This past weekend, government’s Vooma vaccination drive surpassed its minimum target of 350,000 vaccine doses, an improvement from previous weeks.
Over the past two days alone, 200,000 vaccine doses have been administered. Phaahla said more Vooma drives were going to be announced soon.
33.4% of the adult population, Phaahla said, was almost half of the 70% target government was aiming for.
Encouragingly, almost 70% of vulnerable groups, notably citizens over 60 and those in the 50 to 59 age group, were vaccinated.
In the 60+ age group, 60.7% have been jabbed. Limpopo is already at 71%. Phaahla said only 513,000 more people in this age group needed to be vaccinated to reach 70%, which translates to around 40,000 people per province.
52% of people in the 50 to 59 year-old age group have been vaccinated. Over 800,000 more people in this group need to be vaccinated in order to reach 70%.
Acting director-general of the national Department of Health, Dr Nicholas Crisp, said in a Q&A session in the media briefing on Friday that government was also looking into vaccinating children.
He said a date for the implementation of child vaccines would be made “in due course”.
He also reiterated that government would not be implementing a compulsory vaccination mandate.