President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation following the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant.
The new B.1.1.529 variant named Omicron has been declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO). The emergence of the new variant has put a spotlight on the rate of vaccinations in the country and reignited the debate around making the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory.
President Ramaphosa announced that the government will be setting up a task team which will engage in consultations on making vaccines mandatory for certain activities. The task team will be headed by Deputy President David Mabuza. Ramaphosa added that recommendations will be made on a ‘fair and sustainable’ approach to making vaccines mandatory.
He said, “We have therefore been undertaking engagements with social partners and other stakeholders on introducing measures that make vaccination a condition for access to workplaces, public events, public transport and public establishments.”
Stellenbosch University's Director of the Centre for Medical Ethics and Law Keymanthri Moodley says the discussions around mandatory vaccinations have been ongoing since August. She says vaccines should be mandatory for all indoor investments as well as domestic flights.
Moodley says a mandatory vaccine policy could see an increase uptake by 18 to 20%. She said, “it's important that we understand the critical situation we are in now and that as responsible members of society that we come forward and take our vaccines so that we protect everybody”.
“We realise that the introduction of such measures is a difficult and complex issue, but if we do not address this seriously and as a matter of urgency, we will continue to be vulnerable to new variants and will continue to suffer new waves of infection,” concluded President Ramaphosa.