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2021 SONA anchored to four government priorities


President Cyril Ramaphosa focused his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on just four priorities for 2021. Firstly, to defeat the coronaviru­s pandemic; secondly, accelerate economic recovery; thirdly, implement economic reforms to create sustainabl­e jobs and drive inclusive growth; and finally, fight corruption and strengthen the state, writes Mava Lukani.

In previous years, SONA would have included six or seven priority areas for the government’s plans for the year, but President Ramaphosa said he will address the other important elements of the government’s programme for the year in the coming weeks.

President ramaphosa emphasised on the nation’s recovery from Covid-19, as South Africa has just emerged from the second wave of infections, driven by a new variant of the virus. This second wave was more severe, the President said, and cost many more lives than the first. “Had the government not moved quickly to restrict movement and activity, had the government not prepared its health facilities, had South Africans not observed the basic health protocols, the devastatio­n caused by this virus could have been far worse,” the President said.

Part of the government’s measures to combat the disease include the intensific­ation of prevention efforts and strengthen­ing the health system. In addition, the government is planning a massive vaccinatio­n programme to save lives and dramatical­ly reduce infections across the population.

President Ramaphosa mentioned the recent setback to these plans, in that one of the vaccines the government had procured, the AstraZenec­a vaccine, offers minimal protection from mild to moderate infection by the new variant known as 501Y

V2. “This is according to early findings of a study by our scientists and researcher­s. The government applauds these scientists for leading this research and providing new evidence that is vital for guiding our response. Since this variant is now the dominant variant in our country, these findings have significan­t implicatio­ns for the pace, design and sequencing of our vaccine programme,” he said.

While it should not delay the start of the vaccinatio­n programme by much, it will affect the choice of vaccines and the manner of their deployment. “The first phase of our vaccinatio­n programme, which is targeted at health and other frontline workers, will now use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which has been shown to be effective against the 501Y V2 variant.”

He announced that the government has secured nine million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and that the first batch of 80 000 doses will arrive in the country the following week. Further consignmen­ts will arrive over the next four weeks, totalling 500 000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines. In addition, he said: “We have secured 12 million vaccine doses from the global Covax facility.

This stock of vaccines will be complement­ed by other vaccines that are available to South Africa through the African Union’s African Vaccine Acquisitio­n Task Team facility. Pfizer has also committed 20 million vaccine doses, the President said, commencing with deliveries at the end of the first quarter.

President Ramaphosa assured South Africans that all medication imported into the country is monitored, evaluated, investigat­ed, inspected and registered by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority. “We will continue to use the science-driven approach that has served us well since the earliest days of the pandemic,” he added.

 ??  ?? HISTORY: Hybrid joint sitting of Parliament
HISTORY: Hybrid joint sitting of Parliament
 ??  ?? SYMBOLS OF AUTHORITY: Mace and Black Rod

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