News in South Africa 22nd October:

1. No target set for child vaccinations:

Health Minister Joe Phaahla said they had not set a target for teenagers they would like to see vaccinated against COVID-19 because adults still remained the priority.

No target set for child vaccinations
Image taken by: Alena Shekhovtcova

Phaahla made the comments at the OR Tambo Health Centre in Diepsloot on Thursday where he was monitoring vaccinations.

Minister Phaahla said that over 7,000 children between the ages 12 and 17 had received a shot since vaccinations were opened for them on Wednesday. He said that while the teenagers were encouraged to get their jabs, the adult population remained the priority.

“We felt that now that we have enough capacity, we opened for minors between 12 to 17. Now, that does not deviate us from the main focus, which is the adult populations, more especially above 50 years,” said the minister.

Phaahla said that over 30% of the population had been inoculated, which was still far from the targeted 70% by December.

Vaccinated for holiday travel:

If you want to travel overseas this Christmas and you haven’t yet had your first dose of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, you may have left it too late.

Thursday was the cutoff to have the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, wait the 42 days to get the second dose, and then wait 14 more days to be considered fully vaccinated by many countries in time for 16 December, which traditionally signals the start of SA’s peak travel season.

That public-holiday, Day of Reconciliation, falls on a Thursday this year, making it all the more likely a date for much of the country to shut down until after New Year. 

Even if you don’t plan to leave the country, you may still want to be fully vaccinated before the holidays, with the prospect of some entertainment events requiring vaccine passports at the door.

However, there is growing pressure – including on the back of J&J’s own data – to treat it as a two-dose vaccine, to bring its efficacy in line with the likes of Pfizer. Some countries seem likely to consider a person who has had one shot of J&J similar to someone who is more than six months past their second dose of Pfizer, as in need of a booster shot.

2. Flights open to Australia:

Qantas Airways is preparing for a full return to work ahead of Australia’s accelerated border reopening in the coming months.

In a statement on Friday (22 October), the flag carrier said that all Australian-based Qantas employees are set to return to work in early December, with flights to South Africa expected to restart months ahead of schedule.

While the airline had previously said that flights between Australia and South Africa would resume in April 2022 at the earliest, Qantas said that it will now resume flights to Johannesburg from 5 January 2022 – three months earlier than scheduled.

This will include three return flights a week that will be operated by 787 aircraft, it said. Qantas also plans to resume other international flights over the same period, including routes to Delhi, Singapore and Bangkok.

“The faster ramp-up follows the Federal and New South Wales governments confirming that international borders would reopen from 1 November 2021 and the decision by the NSW Government to remove quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated arrivals – which significantly increases travel demand,” the airline said.

“Due to extended border closures, many international crews have been stood down since the start of the pandemic. Combined with operational and corporate employees already working, the Group’s 22,000 employees are able to return to work in December, which wasn’t expected to happen until June 2022.”

3. Queuing before dawn at home affairs:

Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has responded to frustrated citizens who are queueing outside Home Affairs’ offices long before dawn, and even then they might not be served. The need for IDs as the local government elections loom and also the school holidays has added demand. Meanwhile the department has been reducing active staff due to Covid mitigation measures.

  • Repeated visits and queuing from as early as 2am has become the norm at some Home Affairs offices.
  • Citizens trying to access vital services say computers are often offline, queues are long, and offices are short-staffed.
  • The Minister of Home Affairs has temporarily extended hours, ordered a 100% return of staff and says unannounced inspections will be made to monitor offices.

In a statement on Monday, Motsoaledi said the department has approved a temporary extension of operating times by two and a half hours at front offices, from 8am to 5:30pm to deal with the high demand.

Out of 412 offices, 197 are modernised to be be Live Capture offices that can process smart ID cards and passports. “These are the offices that will operate for extended hours because that is where the high demand is being experienced,” he said.

Motsoaledi admitted that many complaints had been received from irate citizens across the country. He also said senior managers will visit offices unannounced to monitor operations on the ground.

“Most of these people have complained about a bad practice by some Home Affairs offices where queues are cut and people sent home, presumably because there are already more than enough people to serve for the day.

“We learnt that this wrong practice of sending people home can happen as early as 7am. The only people who will be sent home are those who arrive after 5:30pm. Everybody who arrives before 5:30pm should be served and not turned away.”

4. Race for Aarto implimentation:

The Department of Transport is facing a race against time to be able to fully implement the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act, including the driving licence points demerit system, even if the legislation is not declared unconstitutional.

A challenge to the constitutionality of the Aarto Act and the Aarto Amendment Act was heard in the Gauteng North High Court this week, with Judge Annali Basson reserving judgment.

This follows the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) applying in July 2020 to the court for both acts to be declared unconstitutional.

Outa cited Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the Road Traffic Infringement Authority (RTIA) and the RTIA Appeals Tribunal as respondents to the case.

The transport minister and the RTIA are opposing the application while the Cogta minister did not oppose it and will abide by the court’s decision.

Outa executive director Advocate Stefanie Fick on Thursday expressed confidence in a successful outcome to the case.

Fick said that if these acts are declared unconstitutional “Aarto is off the table” and the Department of Transport will have to go back to the drawing board.

She said the judgment will still have to go to the Constitutional Court for its stamp of approval, but Mbalula or the Department of Transport will probably appeal against any judgment declaring Aarto unconstitutional.

Mbalula announced on July 1 that Aarto will be implemented in phases with immediate effect, but the points demerit system and driver rehabilitation programmes of Aarto will only be introduced from July 1 next year.

5. No toys for Christmas:

Some South African children could be in for a tear-filled festive season as the constraints in the global supply chain could see them not get the toys they so dearly want for Christmas.

The Covid-19 crisis has seen players in the local toy industry having to deal with exceptionally long lead times and skyrocketing shipping costs ahead of the festive season.

This means that despite their best efforts, getting stock ahead of Christmas has been extraordinarily difficult.

Supply chains are taking strain because the world economy is having to deal with major material shortages, as a result of the Covid-19 enforced shutdowns around the world.

The stress on the supply chain has been so great, manufacturers were struggling to get even the most basic of commodities.

“People could not get paper to manufacture the boxes to put the toys in,” says Jeffrey Stein Sales, sales and marketing director, Ryan McNally. Jeffrey Stein Sales is a leading toy and hobby wholesaler, that imports international toy brands like licensed play vehicles from Bruder, toy figure manufacturer, Schleich and remote-control car maker Maisto.

The shortages could also be seen in electronics, with some chip makers only able to supply chips five months after being ordered, says McNally. This is a considerable wait, as the normal lead time is 40 days.

The nature of work in China has also added to the delays. As much of its manufacturing is driven by migrant labour, many workers decided not to return to work because of the pandemic, resulting in further stoppages.

McNally says businesses that did not order their Christmas stock as early as March or April would struggle to get stock for the period. “If you did not do that, you would be in trouble right now.”


All information sourced from articles posted by: EWN, BusinessTech, Business Insider, GroundUp, and Moneyweb.

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