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Vaccinated public reminded to take booster shots
15 January 2022, 11:02 AM

The Department of Health has reminded the public that booster COVID-19 vaccines are available. People who received the second dose of their Pfizer jab at least six months ago can now get their booster shot.

Johnson and Johnson’s booster vaccines are available to those who received their first J&J shot at least two months ago. Many countries are expanding COVID-19 vaccine booster programmes to shore up protection against the Omicron variant.

The CEO of the South African Medical Research Council, Professor Glenda Gray has encouraged people to take their booster shots.

“It is very good and exciting news and we encourage people who have had the single-dose J&J to go and get vaccinated. We have real-world evidence from SA that this vaccine protects and is very durable. There are other data that we are looking at in the lab that shows great protection against Delta and Omicron – so lovely cross-protection to other variants so it is very important to get your vaccination.”

The Health Department’s Acting Director-General, Dr Nicholas Crisp, has reiterated the call for unvaccinated youth to get the COVID-19 jab.

Dr Crisp was speaking during a virtual media briefing on government’s efforts to fight the pandemic.

“It’s early days in the boosters still as we opened up for booster administration in the Christmas period. But we already started to see a recovery of vaccinations and we hope that as the vaccination sites come up and people get back to their normal lives we will pick up. So this is the challenge that we have – amongst the younger population (between 18-34 and 35-49) both men and women are not as well vaccinated as we need to protect them from severe illness and being admitted into hospital.”

South Africa has reported 5 244 new COVID-19 cases, which brings the total number of laboratory-confirmed infections to 3 552 043. This increase represents a 13% positivity rate.

Due to the ongoing audit exercise by the National Department of Health (NDoH), there may be a backlog of COVID-19 mortality cases reported. On Friday, the NDoH reports 128 deaths and of these, 59 occurred in the past 24 – 48 hours. This brings the total fatalities to 93 117 to date.

Health ministry briefs media on the national vaccination rollout program: 14 January, 2022

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SAPHRA approves J&J COVID-19 boosters

South Africa’s health regulator in December 2021 approved the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine for a second dose or booster, paving the way for the shot widely used in South Africa to shore up protection against the Omicron variant.

The country already announced in December that it was preparing to offer people booster doses of both the Pfizer and J&J shots, but it did not specify when J&J boosters would be available.

The South African Health Products Authority (SAPHRA) said in a statement that it had approved J&J shots for use as a second dose or booster at least two months after the completion of the person’s primary vaccination, with either J&J’s single-shot course or another approved mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

J&J boosters have so far only been available for health workers, while Pfizer boosters are set to be introduced from January for people who had their second dose six months ago or more.

South Africa has relied heavily on the two companies’ shots in its vaccination campaign, which had given 44% of its adult population at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month.

That is more than many African countries but well short of the government’s year-end target.

Eight killed in an attack on a homestead in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal
15 January 2022, 10:23 AM

Eight people have been shot at Esigcakini township in Richmond in KwaZulu-Natal. Two others were wounded in the attack.

The deceased are aged between 15 to 41 years old and one of the deceased is a 17-year-old female.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Jay Naicker says the incident happened around 9 o’clock on Friday night. He says it is believed that the homestead was being used as a drug den.

Police are investigating eight counts of murder and two of attempted murder.

“According to neighbours, at 21:00 they heard gunshots emanating from the homestead and proceeded to investigate. That is when they discovered that eight people were killed and two were injured in the attack on the homestead.  Police at Richmond are investigating eight counts of murder and two of attempted murder.”

Naicker adds: “They are appealing to anyone who may have information with regards to the identity of the deceased to contact them or Crime Stop on 08600 10111. According to information gathered from the community, it appears that the homestead was being used as a drug den and it is suspected that the attack might be drug-related.”

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker gives the latest update:

 

Pupils encouraged to study agriculture as farming equipment is donated to Free State school
15 January 2022, 9:40 AM

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says agricultural skills play a big role in terms of food security. Motshekga was speaking at an event to hand over Agricultural equipment to three Agricultural schools in the Free State.

The donation from South Korea was delivered at Trio High School in Kroonstad. Motshekga was accompanied by Free State MEC for Education Tate Makgoe and the South Korean ambassador to South Africa Chull-joo Park.

The Minister has encouraged other learners to study agriculture.

“Food is one of the basic, basic needs, basic to the core. So agriculture, agricultural skills plays a big role in terms of food security, in terms of economic empowerment, in terms of development, so it’s key in many respects, so it’s a developmental, health, physically, financially but also it’s a basic need”.

Agricultural Science learners at Trio High School in Kroonstad say their love for farming has inspired them to study Agriculture.

“I grew up on a farm, and I’d love to farm. It’s my passion, I enjoy it a lot and Trio has just shown me a bit for the subject of agriculture we can take here, to help me even more and learn a lot more about agriculture.”

South Korean ambassador to South Africa Chull-joo Park says acquiring agricultural skills could bring solutions to youth unemployment in South Africa.

“Throughout the world, representatives of Korea have this kind of a program of cooperation with development ministries, and we think South Africa has a lot of potential in agricultural sector and then that is the kind of area that we utilized for economic development and also it can be a possible solution to the youth unemployment issue, so that is the main reason why we have cooperation with the Ministry of Basic Education in the sector of agriculture.”

Farm children from Oudtshoorn prepared for life in high school

Meanwhile, farm children from Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo are being prepared for life in high school. The Oudtshoorn Christian Youth Forum has hosted a camp to teach the children, who have spent their lives in rural schools, how to cope with staying in a hostel.
Djokovic back for another night in Australia detention before court hearing
15 January 2022, 8:29 AM

Novak Djokovic will spend Saturday night in immigration detention before the world’s tennis number one seeks a court ruling to stop his deportation and keep alive his bid for a record 21st major title at the Australian Open.

About a dozen refugee activists were chanting as Djokovic and Border Force guards drove into the underground garage of the hotel, which is also being used to hold 33 asylum seekers and travellers in COVID-19 quarantine.

It will be a second stint in detention for Djokovic, who spent his first four nights in Australia in hotel detention before a judge freed him on Monday after finding a decision to cancel his visa on arrival had been unreasonable.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke decided to cancel the Serbian superstar’s visa because his presence could foster opposition to COVID-19 vaccination in Australia, court documents released after an initial hearing in the Federal Court on Saturday showed.

“Although I … accept that Mr Djokovic poses a negligible individual risk of transmitting COVID-19 to other persons, I nonetheless consider that his presence may be a risk to the health of the Australian community,” Hawke said in a letter to Djokovic and his legal team.

This explanation in Djokovic’s affidavit is more detailed than the brief statement Hawke released on Friday, which said his decision was based on “health and good order grounds”.

Justice David O’Callaghan set a hearing on Djokovic’s appeal for 9:30 a.m. on Sunday (2230 GMT on Saturday), with the question of whether it would be held before a single judge or a full court still to be determined.

Djokovic’s lawyers said on Friday they would argue deportation would only further fan anti-vaccine sentiment and would be as much a threat to disorder and public health as letting him stay and exempting him from Australia’s requirement that all visitors be vaccinated.

A court order on Friday night had required the 34-year-old to surrender to immigration officials for an interview on Saturday morning, before he would be taken to his lawyers’ officers for the preliminary hearing. After leaving his lawyers, he was to be taken into immigration detention.

Border Force and the immigration minister’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether Djokovic had attended the interview.

The government has said it would not deport Djokovic until his appeal has been heard. Djokovic wants to be able defend his title at the Australian Open, which begins on Monday.

PLAYERS TIRE OF SAGA

The controversy has overshadowed the traditional build-up to the Grand Slam event, and players were tiring of the saga.

“Honestly I’m a little bit tired of the situation because I just believe that it’s important to talk about our sport, about tennis,” Spaniard Rafa Nadal, who is tied on 20 major titles with Djokovic, told reporters at Melbourne Park, where the event will be played.

German Alexander Zverev, the world number three, said Djokovic had been treated unfairly and that the Serb might have been used as a political pawn by Australian authorities, something Canberra has denied.

Djokovic’s medical exemption from vaccine requirements to play the Open prompted enormous anger in Australia, which has undergone some the world’s toughest COVID-19 lockdowns and where more than 90% of adults are vaccinated, but hospitalisation rates continue to hit record highs.

With global scientists and policymakers focused on vaccinating as many people as possible to end the pandemic, the refusal of Djokovic to get the jab has fuelled the anti-vaccination movement, especially in his native Serbia and surrounding countries.

The controversy over the tennis player has become a political touchstone for Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he prepares for an election due by May.

His government has won support at home for its tough stance on border security during the pandemic, but it has faced criticism for its handling of Djokovic’s visa application.

Djokovic, scheduled to play fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovi in the first round of the Open, is hunting a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title. But instead of hitting Rod Laver Arena on Monday, he could be deported on a flight out of Melbourne.

He has the option of withdrawing and leaving Australia of his own accord.

“Australian Open is much more important than any player,” said Nadal, whom Djokovic considers his greatest rival on a tennis court.

“If he’s playing finally, OK. If he’s not playing, Australian Open will be great … with or without him.”

Parliament sprinkler system issues not raised in previous Pre-SONA Inspection Report
14 January 2022, 12:55 PM

The City of Cape Town’s Fire Department never raised the issue of the non servicing of the sprinkler system in the previous pre-State of the Nation Address Fire Inspection Report to Public Works.

This is according to the Department of Public Work’s regional head of Construction Projects responsible for Parliament Thembeka Kolele.

She was briefing the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament. The meeting is focusing on the recent fire that broke out in Parliament.

One of the observations is the fire department’s report is that the fire sprinkler valves were serviced since 2017.  Kolele says once servicing is completed during pre-SONA inspections, Public Works submits the the maintenance certificates to the joint authorities which include the City of Cape Town.

“As part of the Pre-SONA preparations, the precinct buildings are assessed by the Fire Department of the City of Cape Town for by-laws relating to community safety. These inspection reports are provided to identify and address deficiencies before the event could take place. Now we’ve put a note in this presentation to say the overdue servicing of the sprinkler system was not raised in the 2020 and the 2021 Cape Town Fire Department pre-SONA reports. DPW may not speak on the 2022 report as this is relating to the active investigation.”

Parliament Fire Update – Briefing on progress made in the investigation into the cause of the fire

Lack of insurance for parliament building a real concern

Economists have warned that the fire damage caused to parliament will have a negative impact on the county’s fiscus.

The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure has announced repairs to parliament will run into billions of Rands.

Economist Iraj Abedien says he is shocked that the national treasury and the department of public works failed to insure the National Assembly building. The Department does not insure the movable assets of its clients.

As of 31st March of last year, the total value of properties under the custodianship of the department were estimated at R141 billion.

The State says it cannot afford to insure such a massive property portfolio. Abedien says, “News that the national assembly building was not insured is a real concern, it shows the absolute incompetence of the executives who are in charge of these national assets either at the Department of Public Works or National Treasury. This requires political intervention and in my view, they need to resign as a matter of self-respect.”

‘Display of incompetence’ 

Meanwhile, African Transformation Movement leader, Vuyo Zungula has called for the Police Minister Bheki Cele to take full responsibility for the fire that broke out in Parliament if it turns out that the suspect is used as a scapegoat.

Zungula says the fire outbreak is a clear display of incompetence on the part of some government departments.

 

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