Business for South Africa (B4SA) is calling for a rapid move to restrict access to public indoor areas that are not required for emergency use (like hospitals, grocery stores and certain government services) to vaccinated people only, following the emergence of the new Omicron variant and the pending fourth wave.
B4SA is advocating for these measures to save lives and avoid severe lockdown restrictions over the upcoming holiday period, it said in a media statement.
B4SA is an alliance of South African volunteers working with the South African government, and other social partners, as well as various stakeholders to mobilise business resources and capacity to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Martin Kingston, chair of B4SA, says: “We need to rapidly move to a situation where only vaccinated individuals are allowed to travel in buses, taxis and airplanes, or to eat and drink in indoor establishments such as restaurants and taverns. This is in line with global restrictions and based on the science regarding airborne disease. Ventilation and masks remain important, but we now need to look at enforcing a further layer of protection.”
The organisation is also calling on all employers to ensure safe working environments for their employees and customers, which in many instances should include restricting access to vaccinated individuals and implementing vaccine mandates wherever possible. This is in accordance with their responsibilities outlined in the Department of Labour’s OHS Directive, issued in July.
B4SA has impressed upon social partners the need to quickly move to restricting access to public indoor areas (except for emergency use) as well as public transport to vaccinated people only. In the interim, the regulations regarding opening windows and ensuring adequate ventilation need to be rigorously enforced. B4SA is also calling for lower limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings to be reintroduced and continues to call on all South African residents to get vaccinated urgently.
“The global scientific community is in the process of determining the transmissibility of the new variant, and scientists’ initial view is that our current vaccines remain highly effective against death and severe illness,” says Kingston.
“In short, vaccinations remain our best weapon against COVID-19. The country has sufficient vaccines available, and it is imperative that as many people as possible get vaccinated as soon as possible so as to not overburden the health system and to minimise lockdown restrictions.
“South Africa cannot afford more personal or economic pain,” says Kingston. “We have a responsibility to protect ourselves and our communities, and to safeguard both lives and livelihoods.”
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