Omicron Travel Ban: Western Countries Are Hypocrites, Says Ramaphosa

In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP
In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP

 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday criticised the travel bans imposed by western countries on parts of Africa over the spread of Omicron, the new COVID-19 variant.

Mr. Ramaphosa, who spoke at the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security, said the travel bans signalled western hypocrisy.

The Omicron variant was first identified in Southern Africa but is believed to have been spreading in Europe undetected much earlier.

READ ALSO: Adesina Condemns Omicron Travel Ban On African Countries

” . . . when South African scientists discovered the new variant Omicron, we immediately took on the responsibility of informing the world. However what was the result?” Mr. Ramaphosa queried.

“The western countries imposed a ban – as it were to punish excellence coming from Africa, preventing our people from traveling. However, this new variant continues to spread across the globe, beyond Southern Africa, including in their own countries.

“And so one asks, where is science? These countries have always said to us that we should base our decisions on science. But when the time comes for them to apply it to themselves, they do not, but resort to their own self-interest.

“We say that these bans must be removed with immediate effect.

“The devastating impact this travel ban will have is well-known. The UN Secretary-General has called it travel apartheid.

“These travel bans will devastate the economies of Southern Africa that are dependent on tourism. They go precisely against what was agreed at the G20 in Italy earlier this year when it was said we must open up travel so the tourism sector can recover.

“Instead they are closing it down in Africa. This is hypocrisy of the worst order and must come to an end.”

Buhari Receives South African President Ramaphosa Amid Omicron Variant Concerns

President Buhari and his South African counterpart at the State House in Abuja on Wednesday, December 1, 2021.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has received President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa at the State House in Abuja.

The South African President who is accompanied by a delegation of ministers and business leaders is on a state visit expected to reinforce South Africa’s bilateral relations with Nigeria as well as strengthen partnerships directed at African development and cooperation in multilateral forums.

READ ALSO: Nigeria, South Africa Will Partner To Promote Africa’s Development Interest – Onyeama

Ramaphosa’s four-nation visit to the West Africa region, which also looks to advance trade and investment between the two countries, coincides with the 10th Session of the Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission.

The South African President arrived in the country last night and had a private dinner with the President at the State House.

Ramaphosa’s visit to President Buhari is coming hours after the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed the first three cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Nigeria, saying they are linked to passengers from South Africa.

Rwanda Bans Flights With Southern Africa Over COVID-19 Fears

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame speaks during a joint press conference with French President at the Presidential Palace in Kigali on May 27, 2021. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

 

Rwanda has barred direct flights to and from nine countries in southern Africa, joining a growing list of nations that have imposed travel restrictions over a new, heavily mutated Covid-19 variant.

The new variant, dubbed Omicron, was first reported in South Africa last week, with cases subsequently detected in several countries, and many governments have moved swiftly to reimpose containment measures.

Direct flights between Rwanda and southern Africa will be temporarily suspended “effective immediately,” Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente announced late Sunday.

“While the variant has not been detected in Rwanda, its effects are potentially dangerous,” Ngirente said in a statement, urging extra vigilance.

The countries affected by the ban are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

All passengers who have arrived from those countries in the past seven days have to spend a week in quarantine, at their own costs, in designated hotels in Rwanda, according to the announcement.

Rwanda, a country of 13 million people, will also reimpose a mandatory 24-hour quarantine for all passengers.

The East African country has enforced some of the strictest containment measures on the continent and implemented a rigorous regime of testing and contact-tracing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Monday that the new variant poses a “very high” risk globally.

Even if the new strain proves to be less deadly than previous ones, it could put more pressure on hospitals if it spreads more easily, it said.

“If another major surge of Covid-19 takes place driven by Omicron, consequences may be severe,” WHO said in a technical note, adding that “to date, no deaths linked to Omicron variant have been reported.”

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday protested the “unjustified” travel bans and called for their immediate reversal.

“We call upon all those countries that have imposed travel bans on our country and our southern African sister countries to immediately and urgently reverse their decisions,” Ramaphosa said.

Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera on his part accused Western countries of “Afrophobia” for shutting their borders.

The head of the WHO in Africa also cautioned against border closures.

“With the Omicron variant now detected in several regions of the world, putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity,” WHO regional director general Matshidiso Moeti said in a statement.

Dozens of nations including Africa’s Angola and Mauritius have imposed travel restrictions since South African scientists flagged Omicron on Thursday.

New COVID-19 Variant: South African President Calls For Urgent Reversal Of Travel Ban

South Africa and Africa National Congress (ANC) President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers a speech during the launch of the ANC electoral manifesto in Pretoria, on September 27, 2021. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)


South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday called on countries to “immediately and urgently” reverse scientifically “unjustified” travel bans linked to the discovery of the new coronavirus variant Omicron.

“We call upon all those countries that have imposed travel bans on our country and our southern African sister countries to immediately and urgently reverse their decisions,” he said in his first address to the nation following last week’s detection of the new variant.

Dozens of nations have blacklisted South Africa and its neighbours since South African scientists flagged Omicron on November 25.

The World Health Organization has labelled Omicron a variant of concern, while scientists are still assessing its virulence.

A “deeply disappointed” but calm-looking Ramaphosa said the “prohibition of travel is not informed by science.”

The countries that have already imposed travel restrictions on southern Africa include key travel hub Qatar, the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Netherlands.

Read ALSO: New COVID-19 Variant Shuts Borders Across The Globe

Ramaphosa’s Malawian Lazarus Chakwera earlier Sunday accused Western countries of “Afrophobia” for shutting their borders.

Ramaphosa warned that prohibition on travel would “further damage the economies (and) undermine their ability to respond to and recover from the pandemic”.

South Africa, the continent’s most industrialised economy, is struggling with slow growth and a more than 34 percent unemployment rate.

The travel bans are another major blow to its tourist industry, which had set high hopes on the upcoming southern hemisphere summer.

READ ALSO: Israel Closes Borders To All Foreigners Over Omicron

Ramaphosa blasted the G20 countries for sidelining commitments made at a meeting in Rome last month to support the recovery of the tourism sector in developing countries.

“These restrictions are unjustified,” he fumed with uncharacteristic vehemence.

Ramaphosa called on rich countries to stop fuelling vaccine inequality, describing jabs as the “most powerful tool” to limit Omicron’s transmission.

He made a fresh impassioned appeal to South Africans to get their shots, and said the government was considering making vaccines mandatory for certain activities and locations in a bid to increase uptake.

READ ALSO: UK To Enforce New COVID-19 Rules From Tuesday

“Vaccines do work. Vaccines are saving lives,” he said.

Just over 35 percent of adults in South Africa have been fully inoculated after a slow start to the vaccine campaign, with vaccine hesitancy widespread.

The country is Africa’s worst hit by Covid, with around 2.9 million cases and 89,797 deaths reported to date.

Omicron is believed to be fuelling a rise in infections, with 1,600 new cases recorded on average in the past seven days compared to 500 the previous week.

S.Africa Presses WTO For COVID-19 Vaccine Patents Waiver

South Africa and Africa National Congress (ANC) President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers a speech during the launch of the ANC electoral manifesto in Pretoria, on September 27, 2021. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)

 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday asked the World Trade Organisation to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to bridge the huge gap in vaccination rates worldwide.

India and South Africa last year brought forward the intellectual property waiver proposal before the WTO but there has been no consensus.

Proponents argue the temporary removal of IP rights will boost production in developing countries and address the dramatic inequity in access.

But there is fierce opposition from pharmaceutical giants and their host countries, which insist patents are not the main roadblocks to scaling up production and warn the move could hamper innovation.

“The world is at this moment experiencing the debilitating effects of inequality in the patterns of global production,” Ramaphosa told a WTO round table by video link on the pandemic and trade-related issues.

“It is said that less than three per cent of adults are fully vaccinated in most low-income countries, compared to almost 60 per cent in high-income countries. This gross inequality is both unjust and counterproductive,” said Ramaphosa, whose country is the worst hit by coronavirus in Africa both in terms of infections and deaths.

“Passing a time-bound targeted TRIPS waiver as proposed by South Africa and India — and now supported by many countries around the world — is urgent if we are to save millions of lives.”

TRIPS is a comprehensive WTO agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights which is used to resolve trade disputes over IP.

Pressure is mounting for an accord ahead of the 12th ministerial conference of the WTO, which runs from November 30 to December 3 in Geneva.

WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the yawning chasm in vaccination rates between the haves and the have nots was “devastating for the lives and livelihoods of Africans” and “morally unacceptable”.

She added: “That is why it is so important to deliver results at the WTO in the weeks remaining before our 12 ministerial conference.”

AFP

COVID-19: South Africa Announces ‘Vaccine Passport’ Plans, Eases Restrictions

File photo: President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa addresses a public meeting. RODGER BOSCH / AFP

 

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday announced plans to introduce Covid-19 “vaccine passports” amid widespread scepticism of the jab, ahead of an easing of movement restrictions this week.

After sluggish vaccine procurement and a delayed roll out, Africa’s worst-hit country for Covid is now struggling with low take-up, particularly among men.

In a televised address to the nation, Ramaphosa stressed that an immunised adult population was key to fully reopening the economy and avoiding a fourth infection wave.

In two weeks, we will “be providing further information on an approach to ‘vaccine passports’, which can be used as evidence of vaccination for various purposes and events”, he said without providing further details.

But he added that “a sustained decline in infections… over the last few weeks” would allow for an easing of confinement measures from Monday.

A night-time curfew will be shortened, starting at 11:00 pm instead of 10, and limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings will be increased.

Restrictions on the sale of alcohol will also be relaxed, although face masks remain mandatory in public.

– Vaccination the priority –

South Africa has passed the peak of a stubborn third infection wave driven by the Delta coronavirus variant, said Ramaphosa.

The average number of daily new infections has been 29 percent lower over the past seven days than during the previous week, and 48 percent lower than the week before that, he added.

“Our most urgent task is to vaccinate our population,” he said, noting that jab supplies “were no longer a constraint”.

“If many people are not vaccinated… the chance of new and more dangerous variants emerging if far greater,” he warned.

Just over seven million people in South Africa have been fully vaccinated to date, with more than a quarter of all adults jabbed with at least one dose.

The country aims to inoculate 40 million South Africans — around two thirds of the population — by March next year.

Authorities have recorded more than 2.8 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic hit, of which at least 84,877 of been fatal.

Scientists in the country have been keeping tabs on a new homegrown variant with an unusually high mutation rate dubbed C.1.2., although its frequency remains low.

AFP

South Africa Declines Request To Take In Afghan Refugees

 

In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP
In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP

 

 

 

South Africa said it has declined a request to host Afghans who have fled into Pakistan to escape the Taliban, as it is already accommodating “a substantial number” of refugees from other countries.

The government said it had been approached “to consider receiving a number of Afghanistan refugees who have sought refuge in Pakistan.”

“The request is that they be accommodated in South Africa en route to their final destinations,” the foreign ministry said in a statement late Wednesday.

“The South African Government is unfortunately not in a position to accommodate such a request.”

It said the country “is already home to a substantial number of refugees and is seized with addressing their needs.

“Most of them already benefit from the Social Assistance and free medical health programmes offered by our country.”

The most industrialised nation on the continent, South Africa is a major destination for economic migrants from neighbouring countries and beyond.

The country also boasts one of the world’s most progressive refugee policies, which helped attract more than a million asylum-seekers between 2007 and 2015.

But the processing of their paperwork was backlogged even before the pandemic and most find themselves stuck in limbo after applications are rejected, according to rights groups.

The Taliban celebrated Tuesday after the last US troops left the country, ending 20 years of war.

The Islamists’ return to power forced Western countries to evacuate their citizens and Afghans likely to face reprisals from the Taliban for having worked for the foreign forces in the country.

“In terms of international law, the well-being of the refugees is best served by remaining in the first country arrival – Pakistan – pending their final destinations,” the South African statement said.

Uganda last week accommodated 51 Afghan evacuees.

The east African country said it would provide them with temporary refuge following a request from the US government to temporarily host “at-risk” Afghan nationals and others who are in transit to other destinations.

South Africa Unrest Was ‘Planned,’ Says Ramaphosa

In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP
In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP

 

Week-long violence and looting that have shaken South Africa were “planned,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday, vowing that his government would hunt down those responsible.

“It is quite clear that all these incidents of unrest and looting were instigated — there were people who planned it and coordinated it,” Ramaphosa said in a visit to KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, the flarepoint for post-apartheid South Africa’s worst crisis.

“We are going after them,” Ramaphosa told reporters.

“We have identified a good number of them, and we will not allow anarchy and mayhem to just unfold in our country.”

The government said on Thursday that one of the suspected instigators had been arrested and 11 were under surveillance.

Shopping malls and warehouses have been ransacked in KZN and Johannesburg, stoking fears of shortages and inflicting a devastating blow to the an already battered economy. Around 120 people have died, some shot and others killed in looting stampedes.

The unrest followed protests triggered by the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma, who was handed a 15-month jail term for snubbing a corruption investigation.

Zuma, whose home province is KZN, commands support among loyalists in the ruling African National Congress (ANC), who portray him as a champion of the poor

In scenes that have stunned the nation, looters have casually plundered stores, pharmacies and in one case a blood bank, hauling away goods as police stood by, seemingly powerless to act.

Thousands of businesses have been ransacked, analysts estimate.

On Wednesday, the government called out the armed forces reserves to meet a new target of deploying 25,000 troops — 10 times the number that it initially deployed and equal to about a third of active military personnel.

Relative calm returned to Johannesburg on Thursday but the situation in KZN, in the southeast of the country, was described as “volatile.”

– Police ‘overwhelmed’ -Ramaphosa defended the police, saying they had acted cautiously to avoid a catastrophe.

“Yes we could have done better, but we were overwhelmed by a situation,” he said.

The police wanted “to save lives, to make sure that we did not get into a situation which could have resulted in more mayhem… The situation could have been much worse.”

He pointed to the rollout of 25,000 troops, and predicted that “in a short space of time they will have flooded” the two regions.

Defence, security and police ministers and the top army brass went to KZN on Wednesday and Thursday to assess the situation and oversee the expanded deployment there.

In Johannesburg on Friday, an Oryx helicopter carrying the defence commander Rudzani Maphwanya landed in a car park in front of McDonald’s restaurant in Alexandra township to oversee his troops.

“We are not going to allow thugs, crooks to continue unabated,” warned Maphwanya describing the unrest as an assault to “national integrity”.

“We are going to make sure that there’s nobody who is going to challenge the authority of the state,” he said. “We will meet force with force”.

READ ALSO: WhatsApp Sues Indian Government Over Social Media Clampdown

Fear of shortages

Local women uses brooms while a man sorts the rubble while volunteering to clean the inside a clothing store at Diepkloof Square following looting and vandalism in Soweto, Johannesburg on July 14, 2021.  Phill Magakoe / AFP

 

Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), a respected business lobby group, has described the unrest as “an emergency unparalleled in our democratic history” that  “requires the state to take immediate action.”

The unrest has spurred fears for supply chains, including fuel, food and medicine, at a time when South Africa is struggling with a vicious Covid-19 pandemic.

The country has the highest tally of Covid-19 cases and deaths in Africa, recording more than 2.2 million infections and nearly 66,000 deaths. In the past 24 hours, the toll has risen by 16,400 cases, of which 377 were fatal.

Long lines of people trying to buy supplies have formed outside grocery shops in Durban, with some residents saying bread prices had increased by around a third.

Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza urged shoppers in other provinces not to go “panic buying… so that the food supply chains can continue functioning, uninterrupted.”

“We have sufficient food supplies in the country, the immediate problem(s) in supply chains for the KwaZulu-Natal are getting urgent attention,” she said in a statement.

A total of 2,203 people have been arrested for various offences, including theft, according to official figures.

AFP

South Africa Court Clears Ramaphosa Of Misleading Parliament

In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP
In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP

 

 

 

South Africa’s top court on Thursday cleared President Cyril Ramaphosa of lying to parliament about a donation to his 2017 election campaign, quashing a critical report by the country’s ombudswoman.

Known in South Africa as the public protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane in 2019 determined that Ramaphosa had deliberately misled the National Assembly in his answer to a question posed by an opposition lawmaker the previous year.

She also said there was evidence of money laundering, conflict of interest and personal enrichment — prompting the president to challenge the legality of her report.

The High Court dismissed the report last year and the Constitutional Court on Thursday upheld that decision.

“The Public Protector was wrong on the facts and on the law with regard to the issue that the president had wilfully misled parliament,” said justice Chris Jafta.

Jafta also said there was no evidence to support money-laundering allegations or to show the president had personally benefitted from campaign donations.

He added that investigations into the “private affairs of political parties” were outside Mkhwebane’s jurisdiction.

The allegations date back to November 2018, when the then leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party, Mmusi Maimane, asked Ramaphosa to clarify a 500,000 rand ($35,000) payment to his son from the head of a South African company named African Global Operations (AGO).

Ramaphosa explained his son, Andile Ramaphosa, had carried out paid work for the company.

One week later, Ramaphosa wrote to the National Assembly to correct his response, explaining the payment was in fact a donation to his electoral campaign to succeed ex-president Jacob Zuma as head of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.

The Public Protector then launched an investigation into the matter.

Ramaphosa came to power on a promise to crack down on rampant corruption carried out under Zuma’s administration.

A validation of Mkhwebane’s report would have presented a significant setback for his reputation.

The next national elections in South Africa are due in 2024. The head of state is elected indirectly through parliament, which has been dominated by the ANC since the advent of democracy in 1994.

COVID-19: South Africa Sells Its AstraZeneca Vaccine Doses To AU

In this file photo, an illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes with the logo of British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca on November 17, 2020. AFP

 

South Africa has sold a million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for distribution in 14 fellow African nations, the health minister announced Sunday.

South Africa last month suspended its vaccination programme, which had started with AstraZeneca jabs after doubts were raised over that vaccine’s efficacy against a local variant of Covid-19.

Pretoria instead announced its intention to sell its AstraZeneca doses to the African Union (AU).

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement that “the first batch of vaccines that is being delivered will benefit 9 (AU) member states. The balance will be collected this week to be delivered to 5 other countries”.

South Africa began immunising its 59 million people in early February with doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced in India.

READ ALSO: EU Regulator Says AstraZeneca Is ‘Safe And Effective’ Vaccine

President Cyril Ramaphosa was on the airport tarmac to receive the first shipment.

 

In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP
In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) conducts a media briefing at the end of a meeting with various business leaders and political party leaders on matters relating to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Phill Magakoe / AFP

 

However, a study by the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg pointed to a “limited” efficacy of the AstraZeneca jab against the South African variant of Covid-19. The government then suspended its vaccine rollout programme.

World Health Organization experts have since given the AstraZeneca jab the all-clear, saying it can be used in all countries and against all variants.

The African Union has acquired 270 million vaccine doses and has declared that it is quite happy to distribute the AstraZeneca version.

South Africa has registered 1.5 million coronavirus cases including 52,000 fatalities.

File photo: A Red Cross volunteer handles a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on February 11, 2021 at the start of a vaccination campaign at a hub for Covid-19 vaccinations located in Rome’s Fiumicino airport long-term parking area.  (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

However recently the number of new cases has dropped significantly and last month Ramaphosa announced that the second wave of the virus had passed.

The country has ordered vaccine does from Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer and now hopes to immunise two-thirds of the population, though so far only 183.000 doses have been administered.

AFP

South Africa Launches Coronavirus Vaccine Campaign

Specimens of premixed saline solution designed to mimic the a COVID-19 vaccine are seen on the top of a prototype of Cryo-Vacc, an ultra-cold biologic transport unit, in Dunkeld West, Johannesburg, on February 17, 2021. The unit uses a helium-based refrigerating technology, has been created to safely transport COVID-19 vaccines doses (6000 per unit) as well as other vaccines, especially in rural area of the Africa continent as it maintains the temperature inside (8 to -150 C) constant for three days without electricity. LUCA SOLA / AFP

 

 

President Cyril Ramaphosa was among the first to be inoculated Wednesday as South Africa launched its coronavirus vaccine campaign using Johnson & Johnson jabs, after the rollout was delayed.

South Africa earlier this month received a million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca formula but halted administering it over concerns it would not protect against a widespread variant.

A nurse who works in a maternity ward at a hospital in Khayelitsha township in Cape Town was the first to be immunised, hours after the first batch of 80,000 doses landed in the country late Tuesday.

She looked relaxed as she received the jab, which was broadcast on live television.

After five healthcare workers got their jabs, it was Ramaphosa’s turn.

Before taking off his jacket and rolling up his white shirt’s long sleeves for the injection, he asked the nurse who was administering the jab if there would be any side effects.

“This day represents a real milestone for us as South Africans that finally the vaccines are here and they are being administered,” he said as he left the hospital to go to parliament.

He was upbeat that the rollout will be “flawless”.

“This is a new era for us,” he said.

South Africa late Tuesday took delivery of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines at an event that was closed to the press, in contrast to the fanfare two weeks ago when it received the Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs.

The new vaccines, only recently approved by the national health authorities, were distributed to 32 vaccination centres overnight.

The stock is part of a consignment of nine million doses that South Africa secured from the American pharmaceutical giant.

The first doses will target healthcare workers as part of a study by the country’s medical research authority.

Another 420,000 doses will be delivered over the next four weeks.

The country — the worst affected by the virus in Africa — suspended its vaccine rollout after a study found the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab failed to prevent mild and moderate illness caused by a variant found in South Africa.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been proven to be 57 effective against the variant, identified as 501Y.V2.

South Africa has recorded nearly 1.5 million coronavirus infections, including more than 48,000 deaths.

It is emerging from a second wave of infections — fuelled by the new strain of the virus — and has seen the number of daily new cases drop from highs of 20,000 in early January to slightly over 1,000 this week.

Khayelitsha, a sprawling township and home to at least 400,000 people — became a hotspot during the first wave when it was identified as worst hit in the country.

COVID-19: South Africa Receives First Batch Of Vaccine

An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

South Africa on Monday took delivery of its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines, paving the way to the first phase of inoculation in Africa’s worst-hit country.

President Cyril Ramaphosa received one million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, produced by the Serum Institute of India, at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo airport, footage from public broadcaster SABC showed.

Another 500,000 doses of the vaccine are expected later this month.

The jabs will be administered to some 1.2 million health workers, given top priority in the first phase of vaccination.

First injections will be administered in around two weeks after the vaccines go through quarantine, regulatory and quality-control procedures.

READ ALSO: NDLEA Unable To Prosecute Over 500 Suspects In Borno Due To COVID-19

With almost 1.5 million detected infections and more than 44,000 fatalities, South Africa has the highest number of cases and deaths on the continent.

Authorities plan to vaccinate at least 67 percent of the population, or 40 million people, by year’s end.

The vaccine delivery “will signal the start of a mass vaccination campaign that will be the most ambitious and extensive in our country’s history,” Ramaphosa said in his weekly newsletter earlier on Monday.

One year after the virus started spreading across the world, “the arrival of the vaccine gives great hope for our country’s social and economic recovery — and, most importantly, for the health of our people,” he added.

The government, which has been accused of being slow to acquire Covid vaccines, announced at the weekend that it had secured an additional 20 million doses — this time of the Pfizer/BioNTech formula.

“Unprecedented global demand for vaccine doses, combined with the far greater buying power of wealthier countries” had slowed talks with pharma companies, Ramaphosa said.

The outbreak in South Africa, the continent’s most industrialised economy, has been accelerated by a new variant said to be more contagious than earlier strains of the virus.

Africa had survived much of the worst of the first wave of the pandemic, but recently numbers have been rising fast, with 3.6 million cases and 91,000 deaths reported as of Monday.

File photo: A man carrying a prayer mat and wearing a mask as preventive measure against COVID-19 coronavirus has his temperature checked at the entrance of the Nizamiye Mosque ahead of the Friday prayer in Midrand, Johannesburg, on June 5, 2020 as faith activities have resumed in South Africa since June 1 with the introduction of the level 3 lockdown regulation aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 disease. Michele Spatari / AFP

 

So far only a few African countries have started immunisation campaigns, including the Seychelles and Mauritius and more recently Morocco and Algeria.

It is estimated Africa will need 1.5 billion vaccine doses to immunise 60 percent of its 1.3 billion inhabitants, costing between $7 and $10 billion.

The African Union has secured a total of 670 million doses for its member states, according to a tally from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) on Thursday.

African countries have also been promised doses from Covax, the globally-pooled vaccine procurement and distribution effort coordinated by the World Health Organisation.

AFP