By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, says the question on whether government should issue a legislation or regulation on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination, is currently not among its priorities.
"The position of government is very clear. Our priority is to mobilise and convince people to come forward voluntarily and take the vaccine, [and] that’s really the main thrust of our strategy," Phaahla said on Friday.
He highlighted that the government strategy is to speak to people, explain to them whatever their fears, and be able to deal with those fears so that "they can come on their own accord and receive the vaccination".
Phaahla made the remarks as South Africans are currently debating about mandatory vaccination.
He said that while government is not oblivious of the debate, it has been left to the industry and employers.
The Minister noted that government is conscious of the fact that, as people want to get more and more freedom, the issues of mandatory vaccination is going to be quite topical.
"The question will always be, is there a way in which either, as an employer or as a provider of services, you can determine a policy to say, "in my restaurant only those who are vaccinated would be allowed "[and] that’s really a societies matter, which must be debated out there and the service providers, employers must work within the law.
"If the law allows that, the debate must carry on, but at this stage it’s not our priority to even start thinking about some kind of legislation or regulation which is every adult must vaccinate….that’s not our priority. We want to just observe [but] we are not going to get involved. We will leave it with industries," Phaahla said.
On our side, he said the department is looking into giving "goodies" like the possibility of opening various activities, including sports and agricultural events, where a number of vaccinated people can be allowed to attend the events.
"These are the things which we are looking at, and we hope that you will support us when we come with some guidelines. We’ve been talking to the sports people, together with Minister Nathi Mthethwa, and we also spoke to the artists to say that we can do this kind of things together," Phaahla said.
The Minister also reiterated that the new C.1.2 COVID-19 variant is currently not really a threat to South Africa, and experts are monitoring it.