Ramaphosa vows transparency on Covid vaccine rollout amid concerns

01 February 2021 - 13:58
South Africa is 'now entering a new phase in our fight against the pandemic', President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday. File photo.
South Africa is 'now entering a new phase in our fight against the pandemic', President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday. File photo.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

The government has not been sufficiently transparent about the Covid-19 vaccine rollout strategy but it wants to do better, admitted President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday. 

He was speaking at the annual National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) organised labour school just hours before SA was scheduled to receive its first consignment of the vaccines from India, which he described as the most extensive campaign in the history of the country. 

“We are now entering a new phase in our fight against the pandemic ... This will mark the beginning of a mass vaccination campaign that will be the most ambitious and extensive in our county's history. It will reach all parts of the country and will be phased to ensure that those most in need are prioritised,” he said. 

Ramaphosa said the government's efforts in the fight against the pandemic were criticised by many but were necessary to curb the spread of the virus and saving lives.

“We have had to maintain a difficult balance between saving lives and protecting livelihoods. We have done so knowing that the effects of an uncontrolled pandemic will not only cause great human suffering now but could potentially cause our economy irreversible damage,” he said.  

Ramaphosa said the country, as well the constituencies of Nedlac, needed to focus with “single-minded determination” on bringing an end to the pandemic as quickly as possible.

“This disease will to a large extent continue to define the year ahead, just as it defined the year that has just passed. It will have an impact on almost every aspect of our lives. Already it has caused much suffering and hardship, particularly among the poor and the working class.

“In SA and other parts of the continent and the world, the working class and poor are disproportionately vulnerable to infection and have less access to quality health care.” 

He assured the nation that the vaccine rollout campaign would leave no-one behind. This as he also admitted the government's shortcomings.

“We are aware of concerns in some quarters that government has not been sufficiently transparent about these efforts. Organised labour has been prominent among those in society who quite correctly have sought answers from government on the details of the vaccination plan. We accept these concerns as valid.  

“And I can assure you that we are making every effort to not only improve communication but to ensure that all social partners are more directly involved in the development and implementation of our plan.”

Ramaphosa said the scale and complexity of the rollout strategy was far greater than anything the country had done before. “We nevertheless have ample experience of working together as a society to overcome difficult challenges,” he said.

The first vaccines to arrive are expected to be provided to health-care workers. The second phase will include essential workers, teachers, the elderly and those with comorbidities. The third phase would include other adults in the population.

Ramaphosa said the role of organised labour would be critical in reaching millions of workers, ensuring that they are informed, empowered and that they are able to access vaccines at the appropriate places and time.  

“It is vital that they are ready to be vaccinated and that the doses reach them without undue delay.

“We have had engagements with employers in a number of sectors, who have committed to working with health authorities, to ensure that their employees are vaccinated. They need to bring organised labour on board so that there is proper consultation, effective co-ordination and proper involvement of labour and speedy implementation.”

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