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Gauteng is ready for the Covid-19 vaccine, says Makhura

Gauteng Premier David Makhura. File image.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura. File image.

Published Jan 30, 2021


Gauteng Premier David Makhura used a Covid-19 press briefing to retaliate against what he called “opportunistic politicians” who are “slandering my good name”.

The premier was at pains to explain why the province is not ready to unban the sale of alcohol. And while alcohol will not go on sale just yet, the province is ready for its vaccine roll-out, he said. Makhura also used the opportunity to slam a Sunday World report that he was “fingered” in a PPE corruption scandal.

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“I will not play in the mud. I have a clear conscience. In the last seven years, I have not sought to enrich myself or a comrade of mine. I even said to my colleagues in the Cabinet, none of us can be involved in corruption,” said Makhura.

The Gauteng Provincial Coronavirus Command Council addressed a media briefing to inform Gautengers of the state of readiness for the vaccine roll-out which is expected to start next week.

The first batch of vaccines are expected on South African soil on Monday. The council said while it’s encouraged by the decline in Covid-19 infections, the statistics show that lockdown level 3 rules have contributed to the drop in infections and the status quo will remain for now.

Makhura was joined by health, social and data scientists who all concurred that Gauteng has seen a decline in Covid-19 infections. According to the latest Covid-19 figures, to date, South Africa has 1 437 798 cases, 43 105 deaths and 1 272 197 people have recovered after contracting the coronavirus.

The command council presented a week-by-week report on Covid-19 stats since the start of the festive season. It said at the peak of the second wave, the province recorded 35 000 cases in the week ending January 9, but by January 28 the figure had dropped to 20 000.

Public Health Medicine Specialist Dr Mary Kawonga said while they have seen a drop in figures, hospitals are still stretched to capacity with new infections.

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“The risk of a third resurgence is low but we have to keep the figures down. We remain cautiously optimistic,” said Kawonga.

In terms of the roll-out plan, phase 1 will see the vaccination of front-line workers. Essential workers will be vaccinated in phase two, and the rest of the Gauteng population will be vaccinated during phase three of the roll-out. The aim is to vaccinate 10.2 million Gautengers.

Kawonga said the province needs to observe a sustained downwards trajectory.

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“Level three must continue. We must remain vigilant. The vaccine is our best chance if we want to achieve herd immunity,” she said.

According to the council, Gauteng has 360 active hot spots, including Alexandra, Thembisa and Soweto.

Command council member Professor Bruce Mellado said that at some of the hot spots, they have recorded between 100 and 1 000 infections a week, but added that the numbers are stabilising.

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“Some of the hot spots are active but with less severity. I must say that a third wave is still possible if the numbers don’t decline.

Professor Mervyn Mer from the Department of Medicine at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital said while there have been many deaths, South Africa has also learnt many lessons.

“We now know what our health workers go through. We need to have respect for them. I would even go so far as to say that this experience has been illuminating and rewarding. We now have benefits for years to come,” he said.

Makhura said the province has identified 700 sites where vaccinations will be done, including public and private hospitals, pharmacies and clinics. The premier stressed that every vaccine will be accounted for and every recipient will be registered.

The MEC for Infrastructure Development, Tasneem Motara, said more than 900 critical care beds were handed over to the National Department of Health at several government public health facilities and these should all be up and running by the end of February.

Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi said there are currently 5 338 Covid-19 patients in public and private hospitals across the province.

“We have received close to 44 000 additional health workers from the National Department of health. I want to thank the families of the health workers for lending us your loved ones,” she said.

Makhura urged health workers who are part of the first phase of the vaccine roll-out to not listen to the naysayers who are advocating for home remedies.

“Vaccines save lives. Don’t use other therapies over the vaccine. Every member of the population must take the vaccine. But we must also battle this corruption virus,” said Makhura.

The premier said he would do everything in his power to clear his name in the PPE corruption allegation and vowed to the people of Gauteng that he had never taken a cent of their money.

The Saturday Star

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