The South African National Defence Force will be deployed in Gauteng as Covid-19 infections continue to rise, acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane announced on Friday. President Cyril Ramaphosa moved the country to alert Level 3 and imposed restrictions on gatherings and the sale of alcohol.
Kubayi-Ngubane said the high number of community protests over the past few days had added to the rapid spread in Gauteng.
“Gauteng is becoming a hotspot that calls for immediate intervention. For the past few days, the government has been working to bring down the numbers but they have not gone down. The rate of infection shows that Gauteng has passed the number of the first and second wave. Rapid new infections may possibly set Gauteng back, and as a last resort be forced to go back to level 5.
To curb that, the health department has requested the SANDF to assist with regulation enforcement.
Kubayi-Ngubane said the SANDF would also help with human capital in hospitals, mask wearing, contact and tracing.
The health department announced that there has been 11 767 Covid-19 cases and about 100 deaths in the past 24 hours.
Kubayi-Ngubane said there were discussions with the province and municipality about the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital which had a 1 000 bed capacity and remained closed after a fire earlier this year.
“We want to bring the hospital back to functionality; the process is under way, she said. We are hoping in the coming weeks engineers will assist in finalizing the work and also give the certificate for occupation of the hospital.
“We have issued a circular that non-critical and non-urgent surgeries will have to be postponed, to pay more attention to what needs to be done.
”Another area we want to talk about is the recovery rate which is at 95%. We are happy that, at 10:31 last night, we were able to pass the two million mark in the vaccination roll-out. Patients were vaccinated at Simunye Clinic, west of Johannesburg. We are monitoring the activities of the roll-out.
“The higher the number of vaccinated people, the better we will manage the pandemic. We request for those who have received the jab to not (let) their guard down by not adhering to Covid19 regulations. Continue wearing masks and sanitizing,”
Kubayi-Ngubane announced that a consignment of 300 000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines had arrived in the country yesterday, just after 5pm.
She said police would be vaccinated after teachers, police, soldiers and correctional services.
She said that when the country undertook phase 2 of vaccination, it was proposed that it start with senior citizens because most of them were vulnerable.
Kubayi-Ngubane said the government wanted the vaccine sites to be closer to where people lived. The department has realized that for some people it’s hard to get to the vaccination because they are far from from the vaccination sites.
Dr Nicholas Crisp discussed the vaccine roll-out, saying the main challenge was availability of vaccines.
“We are fortunate to have received the 300 000 J&J doses that we have been looking for. We will immediately roll out two programmes, followed by others. The first one will be in the education sector.
’’There are 582 000 people in public and private schools who have been vaccinated since they are over 60. The majority still need to be vaccinated. This will happen in the next 10 working days.
“The 300 000 doses will not be enough to complete the population; fortunately, more consignment is due next week from a similar source in the USA. This too will expire fast. That is why we are moving with speed,” said Crisp.
The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority said there had been no political pressure from political parties to get a specific vaccine.
On June 16, EFF leader Julius Malema said the party would march to Sahpra’s offices to demand that it acquire vaccines from Russia and China.