While over 12-million South Africans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, rollout in the country has been slow. Currently, Media24 reports that the South African government is debating whether or not the jabs will be made mandatory for SA citizens.
While these discussions occur, recently appointed Health Minister Joe Phaahla has said that he’s “quite certain” that public facilities and businesses will not be accessible to people without proof of vaccination in the future.
This is to reduce the spread of the virus, he said. Vaccinated individuals carry a lower viral load than people who have not been vaccinated, and thus are less likely to transmit COVID-19 to others.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it. You can’t enjoy your right not to be vaccinated but then also endanger other people’s lives,” Phaahla said.
Phaahla made the comments while addressing the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Tuesday. The minister said the decision of “mandatory vaccination and policy of prohibiting some who don’t want to vaccinate from certain activities” was being discussed at “various government levels.”
He added that, based on directives implemented by the Department of Education and Labour, he anticipates business owners would have some rights in denying access to people who had not been vaccinated if they so wished in the future.
These directives published by the department cover occupational health and safety measures relating to vaccination in workplaces and grant employers and business owners the ability to implement a mandatory vaccination policy in their establishments, subject to specific guidelines.
In short, they give employers the right to implement policies to protect their employees and place certain demands on individuals who do not wish to receive the inoculation without any medical reasons. This includes the banning of unvaccinated people from entering private premises, like shops or offices.
“Our own preference would be for people to come voluntarily to vaccinate, but as people want more freedoms and to access facilities, we are not excluding the considerations of a stage where [the people in charge of those facilities] would have the right to make certain demands,” Phaahla said.
While South Africa’s private sector is able to reserve the right of admission, discussions are taking place to see whether or not the government has these same rights to restrict entrance to public facilities, the minister said.