Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says KwaZulu-Natal is leading in the COVID-19 vaccination programme after recording the most number of people who have received their jabs.

Mkhize has delivered his department’s budget vote speech in the National Council of Provinces. He says by Monday midnight, there were more than 700 000 people that were vaccinated in the country.

He says the programme needs to be expedited to include more people.

“As at midnight of the 24th May this year, the total number of individuals vaccinated is now at 790 400 – of these were vaccinated with J&J and Pfizer. KwaZulu-Natal is currently leading the charge with vaccination more than 80 000 people.”

‘Third wave’

Minister Mkhize has warned that the whole country could soon face a third wave if the current trend of COVID-19 infections continues unabated.

He says the country has now breached the 10% positivity rate.¬†“Provinces have demonstrated resilience, we have 1.6 million positivity and Gauteng accounts for 27% of the positivity cases. If we maintained this trajectory the whole country will be similarly declared….”

‘Continue wearing masks’

South Africans are urged to continue wearing masks, practicing social distance and regular handwashing to slow the spread of the coronavirus. People should also avoid poorly ventilated areas and large crowds.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim of the Aids research programme, CAPRISA, has warned against assumptions that South Africa can reach so-called coronavirus herd immunity through the natural spread of the virus through the population.

Prof Karim says the evolution of variants complicates any assumption about herd immunity and that the rollout of vaccines is a central component of attempts to deal with COVID 19. This comes amid concerns that South Africa is entering a third wave of coronavirus infections.

 Prof. Abdool Karim reacts to increasing COVID-19 infections:

Prof Karim says three things need to be done to deal with a substantial resurgence of the virus.

“The first is that people have become complacent and we need to raise the alert level so that people understand the situation is no longer Level 1, but we are now in a situation that is different. And I think that is important to send that signal. The second is that we have to do something about reducing the size of gatherings because that can speed up the transmission by creating super-spreading events. And the third is we need to go and prepare our hospitals for the coming surge.”