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Phaahla: Third wave of pandemic lasted 120-days but is now over

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla says that South Africa has now exited the 120-day long third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is with a deep sense of relief that I can say to South Africans that we exited the long drawn-out third wave of COVID-19 infections on 23 September. This lasted close to 120 days and has been much longer than the previous two waves,” Phaahla said in a statement.

“The number of new infections have been dropping consistently in the past three weeks, with a 33% drop in the past seven days. There has been a 19,3% decrease in hospitalisation in the past week. Even more encouraging is that there has been a 51% decrease in reported deaths in the past seven days, although even one death is one too many.

“The overall positivity rate has remained below 5% in the past seven days with a daily average of 3%. Average positivity rates have reduced in all provinces in last seven days. We still have some concerns with the Northern Cape and Free State where positivity, even though significantly down,still hoovers above 5% on some days. The reproductive rate of the virus is below one, at 0,67, which is another indication that we have reached a state of stability.

“It is because of these encouraging declines in infections and the stability of the pandemic that President Cyril Ramaphosa was able to announce reduced restrictions to level one, with liberal allowances including for gatherings and curfew.

“We join him in thanking all South Africans who have been resilient in observing the non-pharmaceutical interventions such as wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds, hand washing and sanitising. These measures have brought us where we are today, level one.

“We wish to take this opportunity to appeal to all compatriots to please, let us not lower our guard because of the reduced level of restrictions. Let us remember that while the numbers are down, the virus is still in our midst. While we reported 989 new infections yesterday, a huge improvement from the more than 20 000 earlier in July, the enemy, the killer, is still lurking in our midst.

“There are still more than 5,000 people in hospital, of whom 885 are in ICU, with 465 on ventilators. We can only sustain the low levels of infections if we continue to observe the personal health and safety measures.

“We again salute our gallant healthcare workers who continue to risk their lives while saving others. As we enjoy the relaxed restrictions let us always keep our thoughts on these workers, because by keeping safe, we also keep them safe.

“Our vaccination programme, which is our most potent weapon against the pandemic, is now firmly entrenched in our communities, thanks to colleagues MECs, HODs and especially our ground forces, who make sure that vaccination sites are open at least five days a week and in some instances six or seven days a week.

“We thank President Ramaphosa, Deputy President David Mabuza, leaders of all three spheres of government, leaders of civil society such as religious, traditional, business, sports and recreation, and arts and culture activists for coming on board over the Vooma weekend, this last weekend.

“We surpassed our minimum target of 350,000 vaccination doses administered and the momentum has carried through into the week, with sustained increases from Monday to Thursday, with the past two days back to more than 200,000 doses per day. Over 2100 sites were open on Friday, 1,400 on Saturday and 500 on Sunday.

"The increase of weekend vaccination sites gave opportunity for those working on week days. More Vooma weekends will be announced in future by the Presidency.

“Total doses administered by yesterday reached 18,735,127, with 13,302,588 individuals vaccinated: 33,4% of the adult population and close to half of the 70% we are aiming for. More encouraging is that 70% of the more vulnerable groups, the 60+ and 50-59 age group, is within reach.

“For the 60+ we are now at 60,7% coverage, with Limpopo province at more than 71% coverage. Nationally we need to reach 513,112 more over-60s to reach 70% coverage. For the 50-59 year-old age group, we are at 52%, needing to reach another 864,000 people to reach 70% coverage.

“We applaud the work done so far by our teams, both the public and private vaccination sites, and we appreciate the partnership with the private sector. We also thank the Solidarity Fund and all those who have contributed to its funding for the invaluable contribution it has made in the containment of the COVID-19 pandemic and now in the vaccination programme.

“A major highlight of our press briefing today is the launch of our vaccination certificate. It has been long in the making and today we are happy to introduce it formally. I am aware that over the past three days, while it was being tested, many people have already uploaded it into their cellphones. I am also aware that some people have experienced hiccups in the process and today the team is here to answer your questions.

“The certificate was developed in partnership between the NDOH and the CSIR and what we are launching today is the first phase. We say so because while it is ready for use there will be more improvements over the next two months to improve safety.

“We expect the certificate to be a tool to enable vaccinated people to access many opportunities, to be made available by various service providers. Among others, we expect sports and recreation to open up more for vaccinated people, shops to provide discounts and others to give prizes, entertainment like music festivals to start opening for vaccinated people, with safety measures, with travel and tourism to open up even more.

“Our role as Health is to make the tools available for gradual return to many activities we have been missing.

“We are also pleased that as of yesterday, the UK government has removed South Africa from the red list, meaning more easy travel between our two countries. Even more exciting is that they have announced recognition of our vaccination certificate.

"We call on all South Africans and other nationals living in our country to come forward and get vaccinated. We have a window of opportunity while infection rates are low to protect ourselves before the expected fourth wave later this year. The vaccines have proven to be safe and effective. Very few vaccinated people are falling ill: ask the health care workers and the educators.

“More than 13,3 million people have now had the vaccines and very few have had serious side effects. We have an opportunity to save our lives and of those of others close to us and open up the country. Now is the time, Ke Nako, Se ku Iskathi.”

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

COVID-level relaxation: More about elections than science, say sceptics

 

SA’s digital vaccine certificate launched without fanfare

 

Discovery’s move on staff vaccination adds impetus to ‘proof of vaccination’ policies

 

 

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