Vaccinations are the only hope for a return to ‘normal’
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Durban - As more citizens receive their Covid-19 vaccinations the hope is that lockdown regulations would ease, allowing restaurants, sports teams and the hospitality industry to recoup their losses.
On Friday the Electronic Vaccination Data System self registration portal opened to all adult citizens from the age of 18 and older. This came after a Cabinet announcement on Thursday.
Phumla Williams, director general of the Government Communication and Information System, took to Twitter on Thursday to corroborate the announcement.
“Remember you can walk in to register and vaccinate.”
Social media was abuzz with selfies, videos, ‘lives’ and boomerangs, as the youthful cohort received their jabs, and #VaccineRolloutSA topped the Twitter trending list throughout the day.
Rosemary Anderson, national chairperson of the hospitality industry’s trade association FEDHASA, said the only sustainable solution was vaccinations.
“The UK’s highly vaccinated population is translating into far fewer hospitalisations and deaths, and as such they are able to open up their economy. When people are infected, they do not need hospitalisation or to lose their lives, and we will be able to open up our economy,” she said.
Anderson said the continued lockdowns and government restrictions made operating a hospitality and tourism business simply unviable and financially crippling.
“As we speak, businesses are closing their doors for good. The country’s current status quo is simply unsustainable. People are losing their livelihoods,” she said.
Martin McHale, owner of Glenwood nightclub Origin, said he was completely behind the country’s vaccination drive and hoped to get the party started again soon.
“We are very encouraged by what is happening in Europe. The entertainment and sporting industries have reopened, and this was only made possible through vaccinations. The reopening of society and the economy is dependent on when we get enough of our population vaccinated. I am fully vaccinated, and chomping at the bit to return to work,” he said.
However, Wendy Alberts, chief executive of the Restaurant Association of SA, said while vaccinations were important, it was not enough, and government needed to do more with a better approach.
“The lockdown was implemented to help the healthcare system and let them recover, but this has not been achieved. We need them to come to the table with real solutions or at least give us consultations before decisions are made. We need debt reprieves, because we are expected to operate at 25% but have to pay 100% of our debt and expenses,” she said.
Alberts said there were campaigns across the country where restaurants encouraged vaccinations in the hope of ending the lockdown.
“The fear of a fourth wave and potential shutdown still looms around December, and we don’t know if vaccinating will be enough. Government needs to support us, and that is the bottom line,” Alberts said.
Even the province’s flagship rugby team, the Cell C Sharks, appealed to all citizens to register for their vaccinations. This was their attempt to fill up stadium seats with loyal fans and the atmosphere they create, after being forced to play behind closed doors in empty stadiums.
Dominic Chimhavi, spokesperson for the SA Football Association, said they fully supported the country’s vaccination drive, and hoped that the country would return to “normal”.
“We have gone even further by encouraging all staff members to get vaccinated and part of this is being implemented at our headquarters where staff members are voluntarily asked to be vaccinated, because it is the right thing to do,” Chimhavi said.
On Wednesday Game stores started offering shoppers a 10% discount if they were vaccinated. The promotion would continue every Wednesday until September 15.
In store shoppers are required to produce their vaccination card and ID or passport to be eligible for their Vax Appreciation Wednesdays campaign.
Last month Wimpy announced its #CupsForVacs campaign. The promotion allowed for customers to present their vaccination cards and receive a free filter coffee.
As of Friday, data from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, 10 431 124 vaccine doses had been administered nationwide.
Additionally, the total number of confirmed cases increased to 2 666 964, while 15 887 454 Covid-19 tests had been conducted.
The Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are used in the national rollout.
On Friday, Health Minister Joe Phaahla, on his first trip since his appointment, made an appearance at GrandWest Casino in Cape Town, visiting a vaccine site accommodating the hospitality industry and residents from neighbouring communities and factories.
Music trucks, social influencers and pop-up mobile vaccination vans accompanied health officials in the province to address vaccine hesitancy.
Phaahla said vaccine hesitancy could only be combated by taking vaccines to the people.
“The carrot at the end of the stick, we tell people, is if they turn up now for vaccines, we will have a better festive season. It is a promise, and can be done. Many more people can go back to work in 2022,” he said.
He maintained that the country was aiming for herd immunity which required about 70% of the country’s population, which was over 40 million citizens, to get their protective jab.
Lennox Mabaso, spokesperson for KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala, said the province was currently leading the national pack in vaccinations.
“We are doing our best in collaboration with the department of health to bring vaccines to the people, like those in rural areas or at taxi ranks. We are fully committed to our vaccination campaign. We know people just want to feel safe, plus we have sports seasons and know fans want to attend matches again,” Mabaso said.