Maverick Citizen

CORONAVIRUS WEEKLY DIGEST #28

SA suspends use of J&J jab, launches phase two of the vaccination programme and extends support for businesses

Compilation image by Sahra Heuwel.

Meanwhile, the high court has upheld the findings of a damning PPE scandal report and the Eastern Cape’s metros have Covid-19 case rates above the ‘safe’ zone.

Vaccine registration system about to go live

Vax registration opens. (Photo: Screengrab)

On the morning of Friday, 16 April, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize hailed the imminent launch of South Africa’s electronic Covid-19 vaccine registration system as significant and historic. The system is due to go live at 4pm to allow those older than 60 to register for the shot. Mkhize explained the process:

  1. Make sure you have internet access;
  2. You will need a smartphone, a tablet or a computer
  3. Go to vaccine.enroll.health.gov.za. The welcome screen will guide you;
  4. It is important to follow the instructions and put in all the details the system asks for;
  5. When you are finished the system will send you an SMS to confirm you are registered. This means the system now has your details in a queue to be scheduled for your vaccine
  6. When it is your turn to be vaccinated the system will send you another SMS with a date and venue. If you put in the correct address, you will be sent to the vaccination centre that is closest to your home. Some of you may be directed to your place of work;
  7. If you have problems contact the Covid-19 Hotline on 0800 029 999. A dedicated call centre for the Electronic Vaccination Data System is being finalised and that number will be announced on the EVDS portal when you register.

Mkhize urged people to help family and friends to register. “We can all guide each other and look after each other to get through this unprecedented crisis,” he said.

Read more: Eight months – SA’s best-case scenario to vaccinate 67% of the population over 18 

J&J shot temporarily suspended 

The minister has temporarily suspended the use of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine to give the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority a chance to investigate a possible connection to a rare type of blood clot in the brain. Mkhize said the suspension should hopefully last only a few days. 

He confirmed that no one in South Africa who received the vaccine had any clots. It was not expected that it would be withdrawn from the vaccination programme, nor did he expect this to affect phase two of the roll-out. Read what leading scientists have to say on the matter here

Read more: What’s next for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

No-fault compensation fund nears completion

Mkhize has informed Parliament that the final regulations for a no-fault compensation fund – the Vaccine Adverse Events Compensation Scheme – will likely be gazetted by 22 April. In addition, retired chief justice Sandile Ngcobo has been selected to chair the fund. Marianne Merten explains that the fund is a standard condition insisted upon by vaccine manufacturers. It indemnifies them but allows anyone adversely affected by a Covid-19 vaccine to seek compensation. Mkhize also expanded on how “difficult” some conditionalities can be. 

Masuku fails in his bid to have damning PPE report set aside

On Thursday, the North Gauteng High Court dismissed with costs an application by Gauteng’s former health MEC, Dr Bandile Masuku, to review and set aside a report by the Special Investigating Unit. The report found that Masuku failed to prevent Covid-19 corruption in the province’s health department. Mark Heywood unpacks why this dismissal is important for the powers of the unit.

Treasury’s Covid loan guarantee scheme extended

The government’s loan guarantee scheme was extended for another three months a day after it was due to end. Out of the R200-billion set aside, R18.16-billion in loans has been given to small and medium-sized businesses. It has been in existence for almost a year and is yet to reach its 10% loan disbursement target. Read more here.

‘Imported’ cases contribute to virus uptick in the Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape’s metros have Covid-19 case rates above the “safe” zone of five per 100,000. The provincial health department says this increase is partially caused by travel to the province from the Free State and the Western Cape. Scientists warned that if the upward trend continues in the next two weeks there will be cause for concern. 

Meanwhile, linen used by Covid-19 patients is piling up in two public hospitals in Gqeberha. The hospitals have been short of linen since the pandemic began and stocks are so low that doctors have resorted to wrapping patients in ward curtains. As Estelle Ellis writes, healthcare workers are pleading with hospital management to allow the public to donate linen or volunteer to clean the wards.

Read more: Hope in the Eastern Cape – A doctor reflects on the turnaround at Madwaleni Hospital

National Arts Festival will go live in Makhanda

The National Arts Festival was forced to go virtual in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown regulations. In 2021 it plans to host some live shows in Makhanda come July. The festival says there is a “deep hunger” for live performance and local business people have welcomed the festival’s return to their town. DM/MC

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