No major red flags of COVID rules being broken during elections: Health Dept

The department said it had not received any reports of mass gatherings in contravention of regulations despite thousands of South Africans queuing to vote.

Residents queue to cast their votes in the local government elections in Thembalethu, George on 1 November 2021. Picture: Kevin Brandt/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of Health on Friday said there had been no major red flags of COVID-19 regulations being ignored before and on voting day but warned the picture would only get clearer later.

The department said it had not received any reports of mass gatherings in contravention of regulations despite thousands of South Africans queuing to vote.

More than 63,000 people received their first or second COVID-19 jab on voting day but government remained concerned about the general low turnout at vaccine sites.

The department’s acting director general Nicholas Crisp was optimistic that there would not be any spikes in the infection rate or hospitalisations linked to the local government elections.

He warned that it was still early days and the data collected over the next few days would give a clearer picture of how the virus spread among citizens during campaign rallying and gatherings.

Experts are estimating that by the middle of November, data could show if there was a high number of COVID-19 transmissions.

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Meanwhile, the department has said that ramped up load shedding had affected the electronic system staff members used at vaccine sites, leaving officials to capture data manually and making errors.

The department said vaccination sites were geared to deal with power outages to keep vaccines safe - especially the Pfizer jabs which needed to be stored in ultra cool temperatures.

Crisp told Eyewitness News there was still an impact as load shedding affected cellphone towers.

"The connectivity to the system is compromised and that means they have to capture on paper and backup later. That's an inconvenience and often results in errors and later they become a frustration for people because the information wasn’t captured properly."

Although there was no data to back it up there were concerns that load shedding was adding to the low turnout of people when Eskom throttles the power supply.