File picture: Dado Ruvic/Illustration
File picture: Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Ramaphosa assures citizens focus in 2021 will be to ’contain and overcome’ Covid-19

By Zintle Mahlati Time of article published Feb 11, 2021

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Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa said this year will be focused on "containing and overcoming" the coronavirus pandemic through the roll-out of the government's vaccination programme.

Ramaphosa delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday night with speech dominated by acknowledging the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. He said in the past year, the country had shown its resilience in the effort to defeat the coronavirus pandemic, despite the loss of lives.

"As we look at the damage that this disease has cost, we will rise again. Nearly a year has passed since we saw the first Covid case. Nearly 1.5 million people are known to have been infected. More than 45 000 people have died. Beyond these statistics lies pain, there is no family or community and place of work that has not lost someone they knew, worked with and loved," the president said.

Ramaphosa did not provide new information regarding the country's vaccination programme, but said this week's news about the AstraZeneca vaccine had dented the country's vaccination efforts.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has shown to be less effective against the 501Y.V2 strain which was first identified in South Africa in November. The country received 1 million doses of the vaccine last week from the Serum Institute in India.

The country will no longer be using the AstraZeneca vaccine as part of the first phase of the programme which targets healthcare workers.

Ramaphosa said the country's vaccination drive will begin next week as 80 000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available for use for healthcare workers.

Another 500 000 does will be expected in the next few weeks, the president assured. Negotiations have been conducted and Johnson & Johnson will provide the country with 9 million vaccine doses.

US pharmaceutical company Pfizer has also committed to providing the country with 20 million vaccine doses. The first batch was expected at the end of the first quarter. The World Health Organisation Covax scheme has also committed to providing the country with 12 million vaccine doses.

Ramaphosa said although the AstraZeneca vaccine issue had provided a challenge for the country, he committed that the country would meet its vaccination goals.

Earlier this year, Ramaphosa and Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize committed that the aim of the vaccination drive was to inoculate 65% of the population by the end of the year.

"We are continuing our engagements with all the vaccine manufacturers to ensure that we secure sufficient quantities of vaccines that are suitable to our conditions," Ramaphosa said.

The president also moved to assure citizens that healthcare products imported into SA were well monitored.

"The health and safety of our people remains our paramount concern. All medication imported into the country is monitored, evaluated, investigated, inspected and registered by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority.

"We will continue to use the science-driven approach that has served us well since the earliest days of the pandemic. The success of the vaccination programme will rely on active collaboration between all sectors of society," he said.

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Political Bureau

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