KwaZulu-Natal has recorded more than 1 100 COVID-19 cases in 350 schools in the past three weeks, Premier Sihle Zikalala said on Sunday.
“Sadly, the pandemic has claimed the lives of two 12-year-old schoolchildren, as well as a nine-year-old,” he said.
Zikalala, who addressed the media on the province’s latest developments, said the provincial Department of Education is intensifying non-pharmaceutical interventions to reduce the spread of the virus in schools.
“Cluster [outbreaks] have also been observed in other congregant settings, such as boarding schools, mental health facilities, centers for the visually impaired and old age homes.”
KwaZulu-Natal remains the hardest-hit province, with 2 206 people confirmed to have contracted the virus in the last 24 hours, pushing the total to 476 193 since the outbreak.
In addition, the Premier announced that the provincial vaccination drive has gained momentum.
“Our vaccination effort is now in high gear. This week, the province [went] above the two million mark in terms of the number of inoculated persons,” he said, adding that the province is aiming to reach 7.5 million people.
“Our target is to reach 60 000 daily vaccinations, which could help us reach our target of 7.2 million vaccinations by the end of March next year.”
Zikalala believes that reaching herd immunity will allow the country to focus on the task of rebuilding the economy and saving jobs.
“We are also very encouraged by the positive response that has been shown by young people aged 18 and above, who have come forward to get vaccinated since they became eligible for this a few days ago.”
He believes that the inoculation of youngsters is a good move.
“Firstly, it means that all adults with comorbidities are now eligible for vaccination. Secondly, as a relatively young country, the over 18 population group is quite sizeable and influential. It, therefore, has the power to change the narrative around vaccination and make it positive.”
Zikalala said he was pleased that younger people are coming out in their numbers, sharing selfies, and posting videos on social media.
“This also means that these youngsters will be safe from the virus. In addition, they will pose less of a threat to their parents, grandparents, and other members of their households who might be of advanced age, or be living with comorbidities.”
So far, Zikalala said the province has registered 216 754 people aged between 18 and 34, of which over 55 302 have been vaccinated.
“This gives us an average of 7 000 vaccinations among this group per day,” he said.
The Premier has encouraged people in hotspots to seek assistance by contacting the National Institute for Communicable Diseases on 0800 029 999.