President Cyril Ramaphosa will only address the South Africans on developments in the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic after the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) concludes its meeting.
That’s according to Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, who briefed the media on Thursday morning in Tshwane on the outcomes of the Cabinet meeting held the day before.
Gungubele said it was difficult to say when would the president address the nation as the NCCC was yet to meet to discuss lockdown measures as South Africa battles the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections.
“It’s difficult to have a specific date on that one until the NCCC has a meeting.
“It’s based on their assessment from the medical advisory council to decide whether, indeed, the ‘family meeting’ is necessary or not,” he said.
The minister said Cabinet and the NCCC were monitoring the effects of the newly discovered Omicron variant – which is believed to be more transmissible – on vaccines and hospital admissions across the country.
He said the information they were receiving from scientists had so far raised no red flags on pressure being experienced by hospitals due to the surge in the number of Covid infections reported daily.
Gungubele said the majority of people who were being admitted into hospitals were those who did not vaccinate.
As of Wednesday, South Africa recorded a staggering 19,842 new Covid infections, which translated into a 26.8% positivity rate.
Gungubele said Cabinet was taking into account the balance between saving lives and livelihoods before any announcements could be made on lockdown restrictions.
“If we don’t strike a balance between the two, once the other one collapses, there is no life. They’re two sides of the same coin and that coin is life.”
Cabinet noted the rapid increase in coronavirus infections and urged South Africans to take stronger action to fight back against the disease and its variants by getting vaccinated, Gungubele said.
Cabinet also joined the president in applauding local scientists for having alerted the world about the Omicron variant that has been spreading around the world.
“Cabinet continues to support calls for the immediate lifting of unfair travel bans imposed on South Africa,” Gungubele said.
Vaccine mandates decision
On vaccine mandates, Gungubele said no recommendations were received from the task team established to explore the possibility of making Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory in the country.
However, he said Cabinet believed that vaccine mandates were important to the country’s economic recovery after months of lockdowns that have crippled the economy.
“To say it safety, it’s so clear to a number of us that you need a policy that encourages vaccination and you need a policy that discourages cynicism towards the vaccine.
“What type of policy in that will actually depend on the findings we have as we assess that situation,” Gungubele said.
Ramaphosa last week announced the establishment of a task team that would investigate the feasibility of making Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory in South Africa for specific public activities and locations.
State of Disaster extended
Gungubele said Cabinet approved a recommendation by the NCCC to further extend the national State of Disaster to 15 January next year in terms of section 27 (5) (c) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002.
“The national State of Disaster is aimed at responding to the special circumstances presented by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
The national State of Disaster was previously extended last month from 15 November to 15 December.
As of Thursday, South Africa has been under lockdown restrictions for at least 623 days since March last year, when Ramaphosa first declared the national State of Disaster.