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South Africa working on Covid-19 vaccine strategy, minister says

Also, universities will be allowed to welcome all students on campus under Level 1 lockdown

South Africa is working on a national Covid-19 vaccine strategy, to ensure maximum benefit once a vaccine becomes available, the minister of science and higher education has said.

He also announced that universities would be able to welcome all students to campus following the country’s move to Level 1 lockdown. 

Blade Nzimande made both announcements on 30 September during an update on implementation of Covid-19 lockdown measures in the higher education system.

“With limited vaccine manufacturing capacity around the world, South Africa will have to prioritise its own requirements in the interest of securing access to the vaccine as a matter of national security,” he said.

The strategy will attempt to ensure that there are sufficient doses to achieve population immunity to the novel coronavirus in the country, said Nzimande.

Biovac, the country’s drug manufacturing company, will be expanded to produce Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, he said.

Nzimande said that as part of the Level 1 regulations universities are allowed to have all their students on campus, including those from abroad. Some universities will, however, continue with distance learning until the end of the year—notably the University of Cape Town.

Nzimande said more universities are signalling that they will complete the 2020 academic year by the end of March—the new projected end of the current academic year, which has been disrupted by Covid-19. He said that ten universities will complete the 2020 year in the calendar year, four by January 2021, seven by February, and five by March.

This is an improvement from August, when Nzimande said that six universities were at high risk of not completing the current academic year in time to start the next one between 15 March and 15 April, with a further six at medium risk. Now seven are at medium risk, and none at high.