The Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) has made a recommendation to government to consider offering vaccinations at voting stations, with the 2021 local government elections fast approaching.
The MAC, late last month, advised government to ramp up the country’s vaccination programme ahead of the municipal elections, with millions of eligible voters expected to cast their ballots.
“Efforts to encourage vaccine uptake in the period leading to elections should be increased. Consideration should be given to identifying vaccination opportunities, such as offering vaccinations at voting stations,” the committee said.
The country is set to go to the polls on 1 November.
While just over 19 million vaccines have been administered in the country to date, the MAC said at the time that the fact that the daily vaccination total had recently fallen below 200,000 doses per weekday was concerning.
It has been anticipated that the majority of adults won’t be fully vaccinated by election day.
Government’s recent Vooma Vaccination Weekend surpassed its minimum target of 350,000 vaccine doses.
Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla previously indicated that more Vooma drives would be announced soon as government wants to vaccinate 70% of the country’s population by the end of the year.
Election-related activities have also questions raised over a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections being triggered as political parties continue to campaign.
With parties being constrained in conducting their campaigns due to the Covid-19 pandemic, elections activities such as rallies and door-to-door visits remain a concern for some as they could be potential super-spreader events.
This year’s municipal elections are expected to involve far greater numbers of voters, with more election-related activities, according to the MAC.
The committee has also recommended that limitations on the number of people allowed at gatherings be applied consistently to all pre-election activities, to contain Covid-19.
Under alert level 1 lockdown, gatherings – political, cultural and social – are allowed, however, they are limited to a maximum of 750 people indoors and 2,000 people outdoors.
Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used.
It further said the role of the South African Police Service (Saps) in enforcing compliance of Covid-19 regulations needed to be emphasised before election day.
“Rallies as well as house-to-house campaigning in the run-up to the elections might create outbreak clusters, and compliance with public health and social measures, as well as Covid-19 management requirements, needs to be monitored by the IEC [Independent Electoral Commission].
Additional reporting by Nica Richards