President Cyril Ramaphosa says the rise in the number of coronavirus infections and COVID-19- related deaths in India as well as the looming crisis in Brazil make a strong and an urgent case for developing countries to produce vaccines themselves.

Ramaphosa was speaking in his capacity as the ANC President in Johannesburg at labour federation, Cosatu’s Workers’ Day celebrations.

“Many developing countries have the capacity and will be able to manufacture their own vaccines much more quickly, efficiently and much more cheaper. South Africa in particular must be alive to the real risk of experiencing a third wave of COVID infections during winter,” he said.

The ANC President adds that a temporary Trips waiver of vaccine patents will allow developing nations more speedy and equitable access to vaccines. South Africa and India have petitioned the World Trade Organisation for the waiver.

Ramaphosa says the quick vaccination of many people as possible is the best way to fight COVID-19.

He called on workers around the world to unite to compel developed countries and large pharmaceutical companies to display more social solidarity in addressing the pandemic.

Ramaphosa reiterated the South African government’s commitment to ensure that the country’s citizens are vaccinated.

Preparations for national vaccine roll-out:

South Africa currently has 1 582 842 COVID-19 infections and 54 406 fatalities. The country is the most affected on the African continent.

“Our people are must still maintain their vigilance and continue adhering to protocols of maintaining social distance, wearing a mask and avoiding crowded spaces whilst we now get our vaccine programme underway on a massive scale. Worker leaders must be exemplary in this regard,” urged Ramaphosa.

India’s inoculation drive

Meanwhile, India’s India started the third phase of its COVID-19 vaccination drive on Saturday, expanding eligibility to people between the ages of 18 to 44 years old, but the country’s financial centre Mumbai only offered limited vaccinations due to a shortage of doses.

As the pandemic in India rages out of control, a number of people who were hesitant to get vaccinated are now waiting in line to get the shot.

“As cases are rising around three lakh, four lakh (about 300 000-400 000) cases on a single day spike, so automatically there is a fear in my mind that, what if I don’t take the vaccine and something happens? Who’s going to take care of my family?” said Adrin Roy, a local resident.

There are nearly 200 vaccination sites in Mumbai. However, due to a shortage of vaccines and limited reserves, only five vaccination sites opened on Saturday, with each site only stocked with 200 doses. According to the municipal government, the vaccines provided on Saturday were only available to people aged 18 to 44, and online appointments were required.

India opens COVID-19 inoculation drive to all adults despite vaccine shortages:

India’s election officials on Sunday also started counting votes in five states from elections held in March and early April at the start of a surge in COVID-19 cases that has overwhelmed the country’s healthcare system.

The state election results are seen as a test of the impact the devastating second wave of the pandemic is having on support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right-wing BJP party.

Most of the votes were cast in March but polling in some constituencies continued through April, just as India started detecting thousands of fresh coronavirus infections every day.

New cases hit a record daily high of 401 993 on Saturday.

The second wave has overwhelmed hospitals, morgues and crematoriums and left families scrambling for scarce medicines and oxygen.

Brazilians take to the streets

In Brazil, hundreds of Brazilians took to the streets of Sao Paulo on Saturday to show their support for President Jair Bolsonaro who has been criticised for his handling of the pandemic, as the country registered 2 656 COVID-19 deaths and 66 964 new confirmed cases, according to data released by the nation’s Health Ministry.

Chanting slogans and waving flags, the protesters gathered along Paulista Avenue on May Day. Anti-Bolsonaro protesters also took to nearby streets but in smaller numbers.

The South American country has now registered 406 437 total coronavirus deaths and 14 725 975 total confirmed cases.

New cases in Brazil have fallen off a late March peak, but remain high by historical standards. Total deaths in the country are second only to the United States. – Additional reporting by Reuters