Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has urged people to take the COVID-19 jab in their numbers during the festive season after announcing that vaccination sites will remain open over the holiday period.
“We also call upon South Africans to celebrate this festive season with a lot of caution, especially with regard to alcohol consumption,” Phaahla said.
“Our health facilities are already under a lot of pressure with the COVID-19 as we indicated a 70% rise in admissions and we’re least ready to handle large numbers of casualties, from motor vehicle accidents and also interpersonal violence.”
He told the media that healthcare workers are physically and emotionally exhausted after nearly two years into the pandemic.
“So we plead to think of them as we celebrate this festive season,” he said.
“On behalf of the people of our country express our gratitude to all our health workers who continue to sacrifice their own lives and those of their families and their lives while caring for all of us.”
He said citizens should honour frontline workers by ensuring they celebrate the festive season responsibly and by getting the jab.
The Minister expressed dismay about the “drastic” decline in the uptake of vaccination, especially in the last seven to 10 days. “There was an uptick immediately after the announcement of the new variant, but the numbers have gone down quite drastically.”
On average, the department has been administering between 100 000 and 130 000 during midweek. According to Phaahla, this was a far cry from the target to reach at least over 250 000 people per day.
“We are well short of vaccine coverage for us to reach population immunity and protect the nation.”
He also warned that COVID-19 remains very active, as the number of new infections and hospitalisations continues to rise.
On Thursday, the country recorded over 24 000 new COVID-19 cases..
Once again, Phaahla said a reliable weapon against COVID-19 is the lifesaving jab.
“Many of us will be moving from places of work in the cities to our rural places and holiday destinations. We’ll be celebrating Christmas and New Year with relatives and friends who will be travelling for many hours in private cars, taxis, buses, trains and airplanes.”
He has called on holidaymakers to adhere to health and safety measures as they travel.
“Above all precautions, we should get our jab before we go on jolling and jab before you jive and ensure that we’re fully vaccinated.”
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, there is an increasing number of new daily infections and positivity rate in all provinces, except Gauteng.
NICD’s Head of Public Health Surveillance and Response, Dr Michelle Groome said Omicron was the dominant strain in November.
“There’s also an increase in hospitalisations in all provinces,” she said, adding that there has been a peak in deaths in all provinces but in the Northern Cape and Western Cape.
Regardless of the variant, Groome said vaccination, mask-wearing, social distancing and limiting large gatherings would curb the spread of the virus.