Premier of the KwaZulu-Natal Province, Mr Sihle Zikalala,
Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa,
Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo,
Mayor of eThekwini Municipality, Cllr Mxolisi Kaunda,
Members of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Executive Council,
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen
In this province of KwaZulu-Natal last year, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirmed the first suspected case of Covid-19, after one of our compatriots tested positive upon return from an overseas trip.
Since then, we have witnessed repeated resurgence and frequent mutations of the coronavirus leading close to 2, 9 million cumulative cases of infections in the country, out of the 236 million cases worldwide. What we have learned, is the indiscriminate nature of the coronavirus. It has affected the developed and developing countries, and rich and poor alike.
Whilst dealing with these infections and their trauma to the affected, we also had to contend with the rising numbers of those who succumbed to its fatal effect. In our case, we have to date lost over 87 500 fellow compatriots to Covid-19 related complications.
At first, the world grappled with how to respond and curb further cases of coronavirus in order to save lives and livelihoods. In varying degrees, risk adjusted lockdowns were implemented by various countries including ours. In the process, this negatively impacted on the economy and global value chains in international trade leading to closure of businesses and job losses.
As a result, some industries will take time to recover, whilst others would require new measures to adapt to new realities imposed by the pandemic. Among the sectors of the economy that have been hardest hit, are the hospitality and creative industries.
We have had to cancel signature events like the Durban July and the Comrades Marathon for two years in a row, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. These events have become part of our lives and are synonymous with KwaZulu-Natal as a tourism destination of choice.
The devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, extends to all sporting codes, affecting sportsmen and women, artists, creative sector, and those involved in the secondary aspects of the industry like events coordinators, promoters and sponsors.
Athletes, sportsmen and women have had to compete in empty stadiums without the cheering support from their fans and supporters, who inspire them to perform to the best of their abilities and help forge social cohesion.
The fight against the Covid-19 pandemic is an all-out war that calls for adherence to all dictates of science and guidelines. It is proven that every pandemic of a similar nature that dared to threaten the existence of humanity before, was defeated through vaccines.
Similarly, investments were made in research and development of Covid-19 vaccines including their safety and efficacy. Today we have a variety of such vaccines at the world’s disposal, which are a response to the pandemic.
Therefore, there is no need to be anxious, doubtful and hesitant. These Covid-19 vaccines are our ticket back to normalcy. We have it in our power to change direction. We are seeing how those countries that have vaccinated enough of their people, are back to certain degree of normal life.
We are holding hands and working together with artists and sporting legends as Covid-19 vaccines ambassadors, to spread the message that vaccines save lives. Through them and their influence, we seek to dispel the myths around Covid-19 vaccines and persuade those who are still doubtful about their efficacy.
We appreciate the contribution to this campaign of the five times Grammy Award winners, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. They are ambassadors of the vaccination message and have been with us since the launch of this campaign at the FNB Stadium in Gauteng.
We also thank the University of Zululand Choir, who are our TB Ambassadors for joining the vaccination campaign. They too are worthy ambassadors in the higher education sector in particular, and society in general.
Together with all other artists, celebrities and sporting legends who have joined us in this journey, we throw our weight fully behind the “Return to Play- It’s in Your hands” campaign by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture under Minister Mthethwa.
We do so, for we are convinced that the more of us take the Covid-19 vaccines, the sooner we will begin to enjoy watching our sporting teams as spectators on the grandstands; the sooner we will be able to enjoy live concerts, festivals and performances in theatres.
The artists that we support and love so much, would no longer have to struggle to survive due to loss of a guaranteed income as a result of restrictions of the risk-adjusted lockdown.
Just as we do in every five years when we have to stand in line to perform our civic duty of choosing political parties and public representatives to run our affairs - be it at municipal, provincial or national levels, this too, is such a time when we have to play our part of saving lives and securing livelihoods.
To date, just more than 18,5 million vaccines have been administered to more that 13,1 million South Africans, which means 33.12 percent have been vaccinated. Out of these people, just over 9,2 million are fully vaccinated. We have about 27 million adults who are yet to vaccinate.
Therefore, we must increase speed in order to reach our target of 70 percent adult population by the end of December this year. This translates to 300 000 jabs in arms on a daily basis as a target set by the President. Currently, we are lagging behind as we are vaccinating no more than 200 000 people per day.
In reality with all the delays, we now should vaccinate about 358 000 people on a 7-day average to reach the set target by end of December 2021. This is a milestone we have set for ourselves, which will prepare the country to save 20 thousand lives that could be lost during the expected fourth wave infections.
We have enough supply of vaccine doses for all categories of our adult population, and all we need is for you to choose to vaccinate. There is no reason to stay away, as vaccination days have been extended to ensure access.
KwaZulu-Natal has vaccinated just over 2,1 million individuals or 29,34 percent out of its total adult population of more than 7,2 million. The areas that currently lag behind are townships and farming communities. The Province needs to intensify its efforts in this regard and take vaccinations sites to where the people are, be it in the farms, in the villages and everywhere else.
We do commend the Province for engaging with farm owners to allow farm workers time-off for vaccination. We are confident, this will make the impact that is required.
We also wish to applaud the Uthukela District Municipality which has had an increase in the vaccination programme, greater than 100 percent for the period 08 September 2021 to 04 October 2021.
We encourage everyone in other districts who qualify, to take leaf from the people of Uthukela and come out in their numbers to vaccinate in order to save their lives and those of their loved ones.
For us to win the battle against Covid-19, we must put people’s lives and health first. Contrary to all sorts of myths being spread through fake news, the primary objective of this vaccination programme is to protect individuals and not harm them.
Just as the President has called on all leaders to increase their efforts, at district and local levels across the country, and to rally all of society to vaccinate in what is called Vooma Vaccine Weekends, we also call on the provincial government to use the Operation Sukuma Sakhe to support the vaccination efforts.
Operation Sukuma Sakhe has proven to be an effective model in the fight against HIV/AIDS and TB in the province, as well as in stemming back the frontiers of poverty. It has ensured that we build community centred and bottom-up approach to development that is inclusive and sustainable.
Through this model, we have been able at a Ward level to identify people who are in HIV and TB treatment, and ensure they are provided with support to adhere to treatment. We can do the same in identifying those who have not vaccinated and persuade them to vaccinate.
We also look into the same model for the province to bring required vigour and collaboration with traditional leaders, faith-based leaders, business leaders and community-based leaders at a Ward level, to help attain the 70 percent vaccination target by December 2021.
Sport is still operating under a tough environment, having to play in empty stadiums engendered by Covid-19 regulations. We can change all that by vaccinating and get back to a certain level of normal life similar to pre-Covid-19 pandemic.
Soon we want to come back at this iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium as spectators to attend soccer matches or to attend music concerts. It is possible to return to this stadium at maximum capacity and watch our favorite soccer matches.
Once the population or herd immunity is achieved, we will fully open the economy and ensure that peoples’ livelihoods are secured.
It is in our hands!