South Africa’s government says the national Covid-19 vaccination programme will expand to those between 18 and 35 years old from Friday 20 August, earlier than the September target that had previously been set.
Thursday’s announcement followed a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, during which it was recommended that younger people join those older than 35 in getting inoculated against the virus, which has infected more than 2.6 million people in South Africa since early last year and killed more than 78 000.
“Cabinet approved the vaccination of persons aged between 18 years and 35 years from 20 August 2021. Scientific evidence confirms that vaccinated people stand a better chance of surviving from Covid-19 than unvaccinated people,” a media statement said.
“Therefore, we must all dispel the unfounded and misleading conspiracy theories about vaccines and choose life by vaccinating.”
The cabinet also decided that the country should remain under alert level three of Covid-19 restrictions as advised by the ministerial advisory committee on the pandemic, to try to slow down new infections.
The most senior level of the executive branch of the government said it had received a report from the National Coronavirus Command Council confirming that more than nine million Covid-19 jabs have been administered in South Africa. More than seven million people had been partially vaccinated, and more than four million were fully vaccinated.
The cabinet said it was conscious of the hardships caused by the pandemic over the past 17 months, as well the July looting and vandalism that rocked parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, reminding citizens that applications for social relief grants for people with no income had been open since 6 August.
“People between the ages of 18 and 60 who have no financial support of any kind should apply. The R350 per month grant is an important safety net for families who would otherwise be devastated by the scourge of poverty and unemployment,” it said.
The cabinet said it had joined the rest of the country in remembering the tragedy that took place at Marikana in August 2012, when 44 people were killed, including 34 striking mineworkers gunned down by police who were trying to disperse them.
“As a nation we remain resolute that such a tragedy must never happen again. Work to improve the lives of miners continues. The building of human settlements and rehabilitation of infrastructure in the area continues, in partnership with the private sector,” it said.
Progress had been made by the South African Police Service to implement the recommendations of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry that probed the massacre, the cabinet said, adding that some of these would be fully implemented when the relevant police legislation was amended in parliament.