A significant drop in the number of reported positive COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours has been recorded. The latest cycle of 24 hours reported only 5,683 cases compared to the 12,056 cases of the previous cycle. The daily death toll however remains alarmingly high with another 243 Covid-19 related deaths reported, bringing the total death toll to 70,018.
The past few weeks have seen the infection rate soar, with more than 12,000 new infections reported on Sunday alone, and over 20,000 on several days in the past 4 weeks. Cases appear to be decreasing rapidly and it seems that South Africa has passed the peak of the third wave, as was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa during his address on Sunday, 25 July 2021.
President Ramaphosa however warned that certain provinces have shown a sharp increase in cases which suggests that these provinces, which include the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, are still approaching the peak of the 3rd wave.
Another concern is the effect that the recent violent protests and looting had on testing in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Some experts suggested that cases may once again soar now that calm has been restored and people feel safe enough to be tested in these provinces.
The persistent taxi violence in the Western Cape may also have influenced testing in the province as people avoid traveling along major taxi routes.
The majority of the new cases are still in Gauteng, representing 27%, followed by the Western Cape with 21% and KwaZulu-Natal accounting for only 10%.
Meanwhile, the national vaccination program continues to gain momentum as more and more vaccination sites are opened across South Africa. The next age group is set to open soon and vaccination sites are busier every day.
South Africa’s first tourism and hospitality industry COVID-19 workplace vaccination site will open at Sun City Resort’s Convention Centre, where the resort aims to vaccinate 7 500 people in three phases.
SUN CITY’S VACCINATION SITE
“We will start with Sun City staff, service providers and concessionaires, before offering the vaccine to their family members, and finally, to all those working at hospitality establishments in the Moses Kotane District,” said Sun City General Manager Brett Hoppe.
The resort also announced that the vaccination drive will include an outreach programme to target other locals from the surrounding area, “We obviously want to protect our staff, but it is equally important to us to ensure that people living in our local communities are looked after and are safe.”
The popular Sun International resort will follow the government rollout plan in terms of age groups, and already, more than 1 000 staff members aged 50 years and older, have been identified as vaccine candidates.
Hoppe said Sun City was in the process of collecting data on the 35 to 49-year age group, who would be allowed to receive the vaccine after July 15. Those with medical aid would have the cost of the vaccine deducted from their available funds, while the Department of Health will cover the cost of non-members.
The Department of Health has inspected the Sun City vaccination site and given approval for the site to operate until December, but the resort aims to complete the programme within two months.
“We will have 15 vaccinators on site, who can each vaccinate 50 people per day. We will start with five vaccinators for 200 people for the first three days to iron out any potential glitches and then increase capacity. But we don’t anticipate any problems. Sun City is used to hosting events of the size and magnitude of the Nedbank Golf Challenge, so we are confident that the preparations for our vaccination site will be seamless.”
Hoppe said screening and registration would be done in the Convention Centre’s assembly area where 14 people would be served at a time. “Warrior’s Hall will be used for electronic vaccination data system confirmation and pre-vaccination vitals, while the Superbowl will be used as the vaccination, discharge and observation areas. Medics will be on hand to assist people should they show any sign of an allergic reaction, or to transport them to the nearby hospital.”
The venue has been divided to accommodate the different sections, in accordance with capacity regulations, and sufficient storage capacity for the vaccines as provided by the Department of Health.
Although Covid-19 vaccinations of people between the ages of 35 and 49 were only set to start in August, many in this age group have already received their first jab since registrations on the electronic vaccine data system (EVDS) for their cohort were opened last week.
The EVDS automatically schedules a vaccination appointment at a site in your vicinity when you register on the system. The appointment is communicated via SMS containing the date and location.
However, after the government opened the EVDS for people over the age of 35, many people in the 35–49 age group managed to get their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine within hours of registering.
Some reported that they visited a private vaccination site — such as those run by Dis-Chem — to get their shot.
Dis-Chem and Discovery also opened appointment booking dates for people over the age of 35 on Thursday. Numerous slots were already available to this age group last week.
Some have accused people over 35 of “jumping the queue” to the detriment of the older 50+ and 60+ age groups who were yet to receive either their first or second shots.
The Western Cape has urged people in the 35-49 age group to wait for their appointment SMS, as many people over the age of 50 still had to be vaccinated.
Deputy-director general Nicholas Crisp told MyBroadband that some private providers initially succeeded in scheduling people under 50 on their own systems.
“This was terminated to be on par with the EVDS official registration and scheduling,” Crisp said.
“Some people under 50 just took a chance and walked into a vaccination site. Some were lucky that the vaccine was available, but many were not.”
“The department is not in a position to stop the practice of early walk-ins but has stopped early scheduling,” he added.
While some people may be concerned about getting their first shot before the more vulnerable elderly population, there is nothing untoward about the situation.
The department allows vaccination sites to use their own judgement to decide whether to administer shots without appointments if they have enough vaccines.
Dis-Chem told MyBroadband that official circulars from the department supported the vaccination of all registered individuals above 50 from 1 July, even though this cohort was only due to start getting vaccinations from 15 July.
“As such, with the opening of over-50s on 1 July, registered individuals became aware that it was possible to be vaccinated on a walk-in basis immediately, without the need to wait for an appointment,” Dis-Chem stated.
“With the knowledge from the over-50s opening widely known across the country, the same behaviour was bound to occur amongst a far more tech-savvy and larger grouping.”
“When EVDS registration opened to the 35+ cohort, registrations in the first 24-hours once again far exceeded the daily capacity,” the company said.
In light of the rapid rate of EVDS registration with the 35–49 age group, Dis-Chem called for the dates of registration and eligibility to be aligned.
“The greater number of people who are vaccinated, the sooner South Africa will be able to return to normality, and Dis-Chem is committed to vaccinating as many eligible people as possible.”
Although South Africa’s vaccination rollout has picked up the pace in recent weeks, it is still slow.
According to the latest information from the health department, over 5.3 million South Africans had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by Monday, 19 July 2021.
The cumulative number of people in the country who were fully vaccinated was far lower — at around 1.8 million.
This means that only about 4.5% of the 40 million adults being targeted for vaccination by the end of the year have received all their shots so far.
If the government’s target to achieve herd immunity is not reached, South Africa could be dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns for a long time.
Vaccination sites can assess their appointment schedule, and if they have enough stock set aside, they may inoculate walk-ins younger than 50 (but over the age of 35).
The Department of Health recommends that sites manage separate queues for walk-ins and those with an appointment.
This allows sites to prioritise people with appointments and those going for their second shot. Walk-ins should therefore not cause any delays for those who waited for their appointments.
While some may still be concerned that this would lead to a shortage of second shots, South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccine supplies look healthy.
Crisp said that there was enough stock to ensure that the older groups would get their second shots.
“The delivery dates are not fixed in stone, but the supply of vaccines has been secured until year-end,” Crisp said.
According to the health department, based on vaccination rates, the country had 18 days of stock of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by 9 July 2021.
The Pfizer-BioNTech shot is the main vaccine being used for the general population in South Africa.
South Africa had received a total of around 4.5 million doses of these vaccines by the end of June.
As of Sunday, 18 July 2021, just over 4.12 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses had been administered.
Another 2.1 million doses were set to arrive over the course of July, with batches typically shipped weekly.
The arrival of new vaccines appears to be outpacing the speed at which jabs are being administered.
Pfizer’s shot has been part of South Africa’s vaccine rollout for nine weeks, with about 458,333 doses administered per week. This is below the number of doses expected to arrive in the country every week.
Crisp has previously also stated that the government was keeping a close eye on the number of vaccines being administered.
“We get a report at the end of every day, through our stock visibility system, of what vaccines have been used, and we track what is used against the reports of vaccine doses that are reported on the EVDS to check what’s happening,” he said.
Should the Department of Health detect that vaccine stocks were running low, it would simply stop walk-ins.
Dis-Chem also told MyBroadband that in the coming week it would receive its largest vaccine allocation in over six weeks.
The availability of shots appears to be more than sufficient in Gauteng, as the province allows walk-ins for residents 35 years and older at public vaccination sites.
Some good and encouraging news on the COVID-19 side. One million people between the ages of 35 and 49 have already registered to receive their jabs. The registration on government’s Electronic Vaccination Data System opened for this cohort on Wednesday night, a few hours ahead of schedule.
The response from the 35 to 49 population group has been massive, setting a new record of registrations for COVID-19 vaccines in a 24-hour period.
This has come at a relief for the government, with the acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi excitedly tweeting this development on Thursday night.
Government has been battling to get those who are 60 years and older to register and get vaccinated in quickest time since May.
The original target was five million elderly people jabbed by the end of June but that proved too ambitious.
Those who are 35 years and older and registered will get vaccinated from 1 August, but some sites are accepting walk-ins.
More than 16 000 additional people have tested positive for Covid-19, taking South Africa’s total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 2 253 240.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases said there were 16 435 new cases confirmed in the last 24 hours.
A further 377 Covid-19-related deaths have been reported, bringing the total number of fatalities to 65 972.
The majority of new cases today are from Gauteng (44%), followed by Western Cape (18%). Limpopo and North West each accounted for 9%; Mpumalanga accounted for 7%; Eastern Cape accounted for 5%; Free State and KwaZulu-Natal each accounted for 3%; and Northern Cape accounted for 2% of today’s new cases.
The NICD said that although the number of positive cases appeared to be decreasing, testing was critical for understanding the spread of Covid-19 infection.
It is crucial to remember that the testing data is representative of those who came forward for testing, not necessarily a reflection of current community transmission in South Africa.
Testing data is used to identify cases and the follow-up of contacts to limit transmission. This data is also used to predict, plan and deploy resources for risk mitigation.
“Understanding that services have been adversely affected and services may be temporarily closed we encourage all our communities to seek medical help if they have Covid-19 symptoms such as fever, lethargy, a dry cough, or trouble breathing,” the NICD said.
Individuals who are unable to access testing facilities and believe they have been infected or have had direct contact with someone who has been confirmed positive should call the Covid-19 hotline at 0800 029 999, stay home, quarantine for 10 days and minimise contact with others.
The Department of Health has opened special Covid-19 vaccine requests and will consider individuals who are not currently eligible to be vaccinated under the national vaccine roll-out.
The circular was issued by deputy director-general of the department, Dr Nicholas Crisp, on Monday.
Those who are are not yet eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine can apply to be considered by filling out a form and emailing the department.
Here are the special groups who can apply for their shots.
– Ministers, deputy ministers, premiers, members of the executive council (MEC), and their direct staff.
– Individuals where vaccination is requested by the presidency, the Minister of Health or the director-general of Health.
– South African diplomats and their families who are posted overseas (during visits to the country).
– Individuals who need to travel outside of South Africa, for business or work-related travel, to study at an accredited educational institution, sportsmen/women who need to travel outside of South Africa to represent the country, or those accessing medical care.
– Individuals who have received one dose of Pfizer vaccine outside of South Africa more than 42 days ago will be eligible to receive a second dose of the vaccine.
Applicants need to complete a form and send a letter of request outlining their circumstances to email@example.com.
Crisp said that all requests will be approved by a senior manager in the department and the criteria for special groups and individuals will be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
Infectious diseases expert at Wits University, Professor Francois Venter, said the vaccine roll-out programme is unequal.
“Increasingly, we are seeing severe vaccine supply inequity – the rich, powerful, connected, those on medical aids, and those able to negotiate … get vaccinated, while the poor, uninsured, those without airtime, unable to travel and rural, are left behind,” he said.
Founder and director of the Health Justice Initiative (HJI), Fatima Hassan, said in a series of Tweets that the special health risk groups have excluded those with co-morbidities.
“We cannot run a vaccine roll-out like this, it has to be based on public health principles and equity, risk, need. These are not all special health risk groups, co-morbidities are not listed here,” she said.
We cannot run a vaccine roll out like this, it has to be based on public health principles and equity, risk, need.
Health department director-general, Dr. Nicholas Crisp, said the registrations were split almost equally between those with private insurance and those without.
Even though registrations only opened at 13:00 on Thursday, more than 7 300 people in their fifties received their vaccine jabs on Thursday, Crisp said.
Slow registrations in the age group 60 and older prompted the department to open up the vaccinations to those in their fifties.
Age ‘a major factor’
“There is evidence from elsewhere in the world that suggests when this 50+ age group starts registering, they bring the older elderly with them to vaccination sites. We will be monitoring to see if this is the trend in our country,” Crisp said.
There’s plenty of clinical evidence that age is a major factor, more than any other factor, in keeping people well and out of hospital with severe infections. Our objective is to keep people out of hospital and then build up herd immunity.
About 4.8 million people fall in this age category, and at least 3.3 million of them will need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. From there, the department will register and vaccinate the seven million people in the 40 to 49 age group.
As of Thursday, 3 155 717 people had received a vaccine jab, with 129 081 doses administered in the last 24- hour cycle.
About 300 000 teachers have already received a vaccine jab, Crisp said. The next group of essential workers to receive a shot will be South African Police Service members. This is expected to start on Monday.
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