As the winter season approaches, bringing with it the possibility of a third wave, Gauteng Premier David Makhura has called for the urgent roll out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
In Gauteng alone, over 400 000 people contracted Coronavirus, while almost 10 000 succumbed to the respiratory disease.
“… Vaccines constitute the decisive weapon against pandemics. The vaccination plan has to be rolled out urgently and massively to save lives and enabled the economy to recover fully,” said Makhura on Tuesday when delivering the State of the Province Address.
The Premier told members of the legislature that the province intends to vaccinate 67% (10.4 million people) of Gauteng’s population.
“We call on the people of our province to get ready to vaccinate in large numbers. Vaccines save lives.”
To date, 5 214 healthcare workers in Gauteng have already received their Johnson & Johnson shot since the programme was rolled out last week at Chris Hani Baragwanath and Steve Biko Academic hospitals.
The province is planning to vaccinate 215 101 healthcare workers in phase one of the vaccine rollout plan.
Phase two will focus on 7 372 924 essential workers and vulnerable sections of the population, such as the elderly and people with comorbidities.
The last phase will concentrate on 2 789 427 vaccinations for the rest of the population over 18 years.
Makhura said more than 150 vaccination sites have been identified at primary healthcare centres and vaccinators have been trained across the province.
The Premier has also paid tribute to the healthcare professionals who have worked tirelessly to save lives.
He commended thousands of essential workers such as the police, security officers, public servants, the military, agricultural workers, energy workers and workers in retail shops, who have kept the country going during the pandemic.
Health infrastructure capacity
Gauteng expanded the capacity of the public healthcare system with 4 265 new functional beds, while 4 992 posts were created and filled between April 2020 and January 2021.
The province is planning to add 1 425 more beds and staff from the start of the new financial year.
“This is a significant long-term investment that will outlive the COVID-19 pandemic. What is important is to improve patient care, clinical outcomes, meet the ideal clinic standards and prepare the health care system for the National Health Insurance,” said Makhura.
Makhura assured that action is being taken over the personal protective equipment scandal unveiled by the Auditor-General and the Special Investigating Unit.
He believes the allegations of corruption constitute a serious dent to efforts made in the past five years towards clean governance and restoring integrity.
“We must and we will set an example with all those involved in malfeasance, both in the public and private sector,” he said, adding that the State should recover the money.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought home the stark reality that 19% (three million) of Gauteng residents are unable to meet their daily nutritional needs.
“The food security intervention was one of the most successful in our COVID-19 response,” said Makhura.
Between April 2020 and December 2020, the province provided more than 650 856 households with food relief, reaching over 3.2 million Gauteng citizens.
“This is the biggest food security effort ever undertaken by the government,” the Premier said, noting the role of the private sector and non-profit organisations in supporting an additional one million residents.
In addition, the COVID-19 income relief grant for the unemployed reached more than 600 000 unemployed people in the province.
A total of 2 344 homeless people were provided with shelter, three meals daily psychosocial support, medical assessments, and treatment for substance abuse.
More than 1.3 million girl children have benefited from the Dignity Programme.”
Going forward, Makhura said Gauteng will intensify work to combat urban poverty, hunger and homelessness.
“We are supporting the creation of community and household food gardens to ensure that the three million food-insecure people participate in growing food for themselves so that no one goes to bed hungry.”
The Premier said he is advocating for urban agriculture as a key sector for employment, entrepreneurship and food security.