Health Minister Mkhize downplays concerns over visitors from India

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize was speaking as the Sisonke programme to vaccinate the country’s healthcare workers resumed on Wednesday after being briefly suspended over concerns about complications from blood clots.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize addressed a virtual meeting on 4 August 2020. Picture: @DrZweliMkhize/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has downplayed concerns about visitors from India possibly fuelling a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa, but said the government remained vigilant.

Mkhize on Wednesday briefing Parliament’s health portfolio committee on the procurement and rollout of vaccines.

He was speaking as the Sisonke programme to vaccinate the country’s healthcare workers resumed on Wednesday after being briefly suspended over concerns about complications from blood clots.

Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout - which will target those over 60 years, people with co-morbidities and frontline workers such as police and teachers - is set to begin on 16 May.

Mkhize said the government was aware of concerns raised about people coming to South Africa from India, where health services were under severe pressure from a massive spike in cases of COVID-19.

READ: COVID-19 variant first found in India now found in at least 17 countries: WHO

“We don’t yet have any indication there’s a direct risk to South Africa in this regard, but we will continue to monitor that situation".

Mkhize told the health committee there were currently no direct flights between India and South Africa.

He said three million Johnson and Johnson vaccines were due to arrive in the next two months. But pregnant women and mothers who are breastfeeding should not have the jab at this stage.

“This is just a precautionary measure until we have got concrete information that comes from the scientists to say what do we need to look out for in this case. We hope that information will come in fairly soon”.

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