The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) notes the statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing the decision by the Cabinet to move the country to adjusted alert Level 3 of the COVID-19 lockdown regulations.
The decision by the government comes against the background of a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks with a 20 percent decline from last week. The latest figures indicate that South Africa has already reached the peak point of the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Whilst these are positive developments in containing the number of cases, we hope that the easing of the regulations will not bring about complacency in the efforts against the pandemic because we aren’t out of the woods with the third wave especially with the delta variant that is rapidly spreading across the country.
As NEHAWU, we note that the government is working to restore stability and order in Gauteng and KZN following the unrest and riots which amongst others affected the delivery of health services to our people at this critical moment in the efforts against the coronavirus pandemic. The protests had a serious impact on healthcare services with some hospitals, community health centres, and clinics being vandalized and damaged as a result. Our members and workers in the healthcare sector were severely affected by these protests as they went about delivering healthcare services to our people. Also, the vaccination rollout program in certain areas had to be halted as a result of the protests.
We note the progress of the vaccination program thus far with over 6 million people having been vaccinated translating to 10 percent of the population. The rollout program has gained momentum with over 240 000 daily vaccinations, however, more still needs to be done in order to achieve the desired herd immunity by the end of the year. This indeed is a significant development bearing in mind how slow and inadequate the whole vaccination rollout program had initially started.
As NEHAWU, we had to call the government on numerous occasions to speed up the vaccination program and put in place measures to ramp up the rollout program. We commend the government for the strides made to accelerate the vaccination rollout to our people and as such call upon the government to immediately employ more healthcare workers especially Community Health Workers (CWHs) who will play an instrumental role in the vaccination rollout program to ensure vaccines go to people as opposed to people going to vaccine.
We note the efforts by the government to secure more vaccines, development, and manufacturing of vaccines in our country solely for the African continent as per the announcement that the Biovac Institute will be manufacturing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Whilst, this is a positive development, we still maintain that our government should consider other available vaccines such as the Cuban vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, and Russian Sputnik vaccine for a broader pool of vaccines to be used in the country either than exclusively focusing on the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer Vaccines.
However, we are disappointed with the lack of commitment or mention on the payment of Resolution 1 of 2018 or improved salaries for the year 2021 as part of the Economic Recovery plan to public servants who are at the coalface of this virus. The economic and social devastation brought about by COVID-19 also affects public servants too like anyone in our country so an increment will mean a lot to their livelihoods and survival.
Lastly, we call on our people to continue adhering to COVID-19 health protocols at all material times especially at this critical moment with the third wave. We call our people to continue wearing masks, sanitize their hands, and observe social distancing.
Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat
Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968
December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969