News / South Africa
As the world closes the doors on South Africa, mandatory vaccinations may become a reality in SA in order to save the economy as the new variant B.1.1.529 begins to take hold around the world.
The World Health Organisation has designated B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern and named it omicron. There have been 5 293 new infections in the past two days.
It is understood there was a recent meeting between healthcare professionals and the government to discuss its viability, especially with President Cyril Ramaphosa stating repeatedly this would not happen.
The threat of a new mutation and another looming healthcare crisis now puts December festivities at risk, but may also usher in mandatory vaccination in the New Year – if there’s any truth in rumours currently circulating.
However, health department spokesperson Foster Mohale said he was not aware of such a meeting taking place, and that mandatory vaccination was not policy.
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In a media briefing yesterday, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla said there was no reason “at this stage” to enforce vaccinations.
However, there would be meetings with various government departments over the next few weeks where this and other issues would be discussed.
“We still believe most South Africans will come forward and we want to encourage people with a high profile to continue to raise awareness about the benefits of being vaccinated,” Phaahla said.
Following the detection of a new Covid variant B.1.1.529 in southern Africa and the swift isolation of South Africa in the past 48 hours, the Covid Command Council is expected to install tighter lockdown conditions before the festive season.
Earlier this week Austria became the first European country to implement a lockdown after a 4th wave of Covid infections started wreaking havoc across the continent.
It has also become one of the first governments to mandate vaccinations, while Germany is considering tightening vaccination rules.
Switzerland will hold a referendum next week on a localised form of a Covid passport, where vaccinated persons will enjoy access to venues and other public facilities while unvaccinated people may become more isolated from society and interaction.
Several companies have already implemented mandatory vaccination rules for employees. Last month Pretoria restaurateur Angelo Zachiarides made headlines when he tweeted about his employees being fully vaccinated, with anti-vaxxers threatening to boycott his establishment.
But as with staff, it is likely that companies will start demanding the same responsibility of its customers.
“There are already establishments in Europe where access is only granted to people who have been vaccinated, and while it may be impossible to institute a national vaccination mandate, it is likely that the private sector may lead the charge and require vaccination verification before allowing a person into an establishment,” said Mike van Wyk, chiefexecutive of Medicare24. He expects that this may start happening sooner.
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“Vaccination is for the greater good, and the responsible thing to do. And companies have the right of admission reserved.”
Van Wyk said the consequences of not acting in the interests of yourself and others may be some form of social isolation. George Woods, chief business officer at St John Ambulance in England and part of the team thatworked with the National Health Service (NHS) in its vaccination roll-out, said the key factor in any decision should be based on the rate of vaccinations.
“Messaging should be clear, concise and continually encouraging people to get vaccinated,” he said.
Woods added that a low jabrate or a slower take-up of the vaccine can directly relate back to the psyche of a nation, and how communication has been managed.
As it stands only 23.8% of South Africans have been fully vaccinated.