South Africa

FESTIVE CAUTION

Cabinet greenlights extension of state of disaster to mid-January but no decision yet on vaccine mandate

Minister in The Presidency, Mondli Gungubele briefing media on the outcomes of the Cabinet meeting held on Wednesday 8 December 2021, at Tshedimosetso House. (Photo: Ntswe Mokoena/GCIS)

Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele has said it remains unclear whether hasher lockdown regulations will be instituted as a result of the increase in new Covid-19 cases in South Africa.

Cabinet has approved a recommendation by the Nation Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to extend the national state of disaster  through the festive season to 15 January 2022, Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele announced on Thursday. This comes as Covid-19 cases are on the rise in South Africa. 

The decision would make it the 22nd month under the state of disaster, since it was declared at the end of March 2020. 

Noting the rapid increase in infections, Gungubele said Cabinet was urging people to get vaccinated in order to have a safe festive season.

“While most of us will be taking a well-deserved festive break, we must remember that Covid-19 does not take a holiday,” Gungubele warned members of the media on Thursday. 

“A safe holiday period for you and your loved ones can be guaranteed by a simple jab at your nearest vaccination site.

“Vaccination does not only help us fight back against the deadly pandemic by preventing serious illness, hospitalisation or even death, but it also reduces the health risks posed by future variants,” he added. 

No decision has been taken by Cabinet on imposing a vaccination mandate, said Gungubele. 

While “it’s clear to a number of us that we need a policy that encourages vaccination, and we need a policy that discourages cynicism towards vaccines”, “no recommendations were tabled” to Cabinet, said Gungubele. 

Gungubele added that Cabinet had joined President Cyril Ramaphosa in commending South Africa’s scientists who identified and alerted the world to the Omicron variant. 

“Cabinet joined President Ramaphosa in applauding our 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,” said Gungubele. 

In response to questions regarding how long South Africa will be kept in a national state of disaster, Gungubele said, “It’s difficult to have a specific answer until the National Coronavirus Command Council meets. The assessment given by the medical advice council to the NCCC will then inform whether a family meeting will take place.” 

Gungubele added that it was still unclear whether hasher lockdown regulations would be instituted as a result of the increase in new Covid-19 cases.

“We don’t want those lockdowns to come, but we cannot say they will never come.” 

Cabinet noted the rapid increase in Covid-19 infections in various parts of South Africa, and is urging all South Africans to take stronger action to fight back against the disease and its variants, said Gungubele.

South Africa recorded 19,842 new confirmed Covid-19 infections on Wednesday, which brings the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 3,071,064. This increase represents a 26.8% positivity rate, according to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD). 

There have been 36 new Covid-19 deaths, bringing the confirmed death toll to 90,038. 

The majority of new cases were from Gauteng (59%), followed by KwaZulu-Natal (10%) and Western Cape (10%). Gauteng recorded 11,703 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, with KwaZulu-Natal recording 1,989 and the Western Cape with 1,899. 

There were 374 new hospital admissions in the last 24 hours. As of Wednesday evening, 4,252 people were in both public and private hospitals for Covid-19. 

As of Wednesday, 26,781,642 vaccinations have been administered in the country. DM

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