Pandor warns on vaccine nationalism
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Johannesburg - Vaccine nationalism could harm developing countries such as South Africa as global attention has shifted to vaccine acquisition, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor warns.
As many countries in Europe have begun experiencing a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, global attention has shifted to vaccine acquisition.
The UK became the first country to begin administering the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to its citizens.
Pandor said there were concerns that rich countries would hold on to large amounts of vaccines at the expense of developing nations.
There were fears that richer countries might hoard their stocks and use intellectual property rights to block developing countries’ access to vaccines.
“Vaccine nationalism” was a very real threat as it would create supply problems to poorer countries, thereby denying their citizens access to life-saving vaccines, she said.
Pandor said efforts were under way by the AU Commission and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure that all countries had access to Covid-19 vaccines as that was crucial to efforts of co-operation.
“Defeating this virus still requires countries to collaborate with each other and to work with multilateral institutions to ensure that all people access the required health and medical interventions, and that they benefit from economic and social measures required for a sustained response to the pandemic,” the minister said.
Speaking on other pandemic-related issues Dirco had dealt with this year, Pandor said one of the biggest challenges faced by her office was the repatriation of stranded South Africans who had travelled overseas, as many countries closed their borders during March and April.
Just over 30 000 South Africans were repatriated during the hard lockdown, the minister said.
“From the time the president announced South Africa’s level 5 lockdown on March 15 to the time when international travel was again allowed under level 1, my department, through our consular services, managed to repatriate just over 30 000 South Africans who were stranded from all corners of the world, using over 350 flights. The number excludes tens of thousands who used our land borders."
And as the festive season begins, Pandor has warned South Africans who plan to visit countries in Europe and the US, as those regions were experiencing a second wave.
She said they should be aware that they faced being stranded as borders in some countries could be closed at any time. International flights could be cancelled at short notice.
“Please note that you will be travelling at your own risk to these countries knowing the current circumstances and the uncertainty going forward. Please ensure that you are familiar with the immigration and health entry requirements of the country you will visit and South Africa’s entry health requirement during the pandemic.”