By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla says that the government plans to open Covid-19 vaccines to all adults in South Africa weeks earlier than expected.
South Africa is officially set to open vaccinations to people between 18-35 from 1 September. However, Phaahla said his department was now in consultations to move this date up to the end of this week.
"We are in further consultations with our leadership in cabinet, (and) we will probably before the end of this week open for all adults above 18," he told 702. "If not this week, then not later than next Monday (23 August) for all adults."
Phaahla added that his department would not recommend relaxing the country’s lockdown restrictions due to the high number of Covid-19 cases.
He said that the pressure on hospitals should ease if the average number of cases falls below 10,000 a day with a positivity rate of around 10% in the next week or two.
However, he said that the Covid-19 numbers don’t support the relaxation of restrictions.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD),reports 7 983 new COVID-19 cases that have been identified in South Africa, which brings the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 2 613 569. This increase represents a 21.1% positivity rate.
The majority of new cases today are from Western Cape (27%), followed by KwaZulu-Natal (24%). Eastern Cape accounted for 18%; Gauteng and Northern Cape accounted for 9% each; Mpumalanga accounted for 7%; Free State accounted for 6%; North West accounted for 3%; and Limpopo accounted for 1% of today’s new cases.
NICD a further 299 COVID-19 related deaths have been reported, bringing total fatalities to 77 440 to date.
South Africa’s biggest challenge to meeting a target of vaccinating two-thirds of the adult population against Covid-19 has shifted from a shortage of supply to a lack of demand.
"We are sitting in a situation where we don’t have a vaccine constraint, at least for the next two months," Nicholas Crisp, deputy director-general in the department of health, said in an online briefing on Friday. "Now we need vaccine demand."
Last month, a survey found that about 54% of nationals say they are unlikely to get a Covid-19 vaccine, and almost half say they believe prayer provides more protection than the shots.
Crisp said one issue of concern in South Africa is a particular reluctance among men to be vaccinated. Almost 60% of those to have received a dose to date have been women.
"This is not good," Crisp said. "It means that men are going to end up very sick and in hospital, and we don’t want that to happen just before Christmas."