Wednesday, 30 December 2020 21:37

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said in a statement that South Africa has recorded 17 710 (positivity rate 33%) new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of cases to date to 1 039 161.

Mkhize said the positivity rate, being an indicator of the rapidity of spread, remains of major concern.

A cumulative 6 553 761 tests have been conducted with 53 279 tests completed since the last report.

The country has also recorded 465 new COVID-19 related fatalities, Eastern Cape 88, Free State 4, Gauteng 41, Kwa-Zulu Natal 144, Limpopo 16, Northern Cape 7 and Western Cape 165 and this brings the total deaths to 28 033 deaths. said Mkhize.

Mkhize added that the recoveries currently stand at 867 597. This represents a recovery rate of 83%.

Meanwhile South Africa, which has Africa’s worst recorded coronavirus outbreak, may have to wait months to receive its first vaccines even as other countries race to roll out the shots.

The government only expects vaccines that it paid a deposit to secure from the World Health Organization’s Covax program to arrive in the second quarter of 2021, according to president Cyril Ramaphosa.

The wait bodes ill for a country that’s confronting a new more virulent strain of the virus, record new infections and a populace that’s increasingly eschewed social distancing.

Talks with drug companies about supplementing South Africa’s Covax allocation are ongoing, Ramaphosa said in an address Monday night, in which he announced the re-imposition of several restrictions aimed at curbing the pandemic’s spread.

It’s unclear when or whether those shots will be made available, with several wealthy nations having already prepaid to pin down most of the initial production.

"With a lot of advanced purchasing of vaccines, it will be hard to jump the queues in trying to secure earlier vaccine doses," said Stavros Nicolaou, an executive at Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd and head of the health work group at Business for South Africa, an alliance of the nation’s biggest business groups that’s known as B4SA.

The Solidarity Fund, which was established to support the government’s pandemic response and is backed by some of the country’s biggest companies and richest individuals, paid the initial R283 million ($19.3 million) Covax deposit.

It will cost a total of R2.7 billion for South Africa to secure its full allocation of six million doses from the facility – sufficient to cover about 10% of the population.

South Africa’s biggest labor group said the government’s vaccine roll-out program does not inspire confidence.

"More so when other countries across Europe and the Americas have begun mass vaccinations, the Congress of South African Trade Unions said in a statement.

"We cannot afford to allow South Africans to die because of state lethargy."

It has called on the government and the private sector to produce a plan to ensure all South Africans are vaccinated during 2021.

While the government wants to secure alternate supplies immediately, affordability remains a major constraint, and the efficacy of a number of potential shots remains unproven,Mkhize said in an online briefing on Tuesday.

The pandemic has exacerbated state funding constraints, with the central bank expecting the economy to contract 8% this year.

Compiled by Lehlohonolo Lehana.