Tag: vaccines

By Sentleeng Lehihi for SABC News

The North West Labour Department says the recently Amended Consolidated Direction on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Certain Workplaces cannot be used to force workers to vaccinate.

The department insists that workers who are unfairly dismissed for refusing to vaccinate must report the matter to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) if no internal process is available.

This follows a SABC News report where Tyeks Security Services employees alleged that their employer had informed them that it is mandatory for all workers to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Last week, a SABC News item highlighted the plight of Tyeks Security Service employees, who raised concern about being forced to vaccinate.

“We received a letter forcing us to get vaccinated whether we like it or not, failing which, you lose your job and the way the president spoke he was clear that the vaccination is voluntary. Vaccination should not be mandatory,” said one of the workers.

“My one question is what will happen to my health when I get vaccinated unwillingly because I always have complications because of my chronic condition,” said another worker.

Labour legislation

While vaccinations remain voluntary, the Labour Department recently released an Amended Consolidated Direction on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Certain Workplaces, to provide guidelines for employers to make vaccinations mandatory.

According to the new directions, while not every employee poses a risk of transmission of severe disease, the employer can determine whether an employee is required to be vaccinated by identifying those employees who pose a risk of transmission or risk of severe COVID-19 disease or death due to their age or co-morbidities.

Vaccination is not mandatory

Provincial Chief Inspector for the Labour Department, Boikie Mampuru says employees have the right to refuse to be vaccinated.

“Any employer obviously wants to make the operation to be efficient. In that sense, he must then develop a risk assessment that will mitigate against COVID-19. What we are saying is that if there is an employer who wants to force people to be vaccinated, the dispute can be handled internally. If there are no dispute mechanisms, the employee has a right to lodge for an unfair dismissal, which normally is handled by one of the entities of the Department of Labour which is CCMA.”

North West Health Department Spokesperson, Tebogo Lekgethoane, echoes the same sentiments.

“To date vaccination is not mandatory in South Africa. However, the department encourages vaccination in order to attain population immunity. People who are vaccinated stand a better chance of resisting the severity of the illness if they do contract the virus. The understanding is that even the new occupational health and safety measures do not make vaccines mandatory.”

The confusion created by amended legislation

Labour Analyst, Mamokgethi Molopyane says the ambiguities in the new directions have created more confusion than solutions.

“When there is no clarity and instead of clarity there is ambiguity. Where it is open for interpretation, often what happens is that the employer will simply say that, ‘Well, I am enforcing it as I see fit per my company or my workplace but also in the industry that I work in’. And so that leaves many workers vulnerable to being compelled or forced by the employer to be vaccinated, to show the proof of vaccination.”

Tyeks Security Services’ response to allegations

In a written response, the legal services manager of Tyeks Security Services Jethro Makaye has refuted claims by employees that the directive to vaccinate is a ploy not to renew their contracts. Makaye says their employees are deployed in high-risk environments where they are in daily contact with high volumes of patients visiting facilities for medical attention.

He adds that the company is obliged to provide a safe working environment to employees.

At a recent press conference held by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, the results of a Wits University and Oxford University study found that the AstraZeneca vaccine had reduced efficacy against the Covid-19 variant, 501Y.V2, found in South Africa. In trial participants, it only offered 22% protection for infections caused by the strain.

As a result, a temporary halt to the rollout of the AstraZeneca brand vaccine was announced. However, its usage in the country has not been completely ruled out.

Dr Anban Pillay, the health department’s director-general, has said that there are a number of options available in terms of the use of the vaccine that the government will be exploring.

  • About R120-million was spent in the procuring of the vaccines
  • The country paid between $5.25 (about R77) per dose
  • Procuring the vaccine directly from AstraZeneca or the Serum Institute of India costs R44.50 ($3) per dose
  • One million vaccines have already arrived in South Africa, while another 500 000 were set to arrive later this month

However, the vaccine may still be used if AstraZeneca rolls out an additional booster jab. It is believed to prevent severe cases of Covid-19, but not moderate to mild ones.

Professor Glenda Gray has said that if it can stop deaths and stop health facilities from being overrun, the vaccine should be given to high-risk patients.

The Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU) said the government’s move to halt the roll-out proves what they have been saying all along.

“The efficacy of the vaccine against the new strain of Covid-19 is not proven, and the government’s rushed approach has resulted in taxpayers’ money being spent on a vaccine that is set to expire in April.

“The rushed manner in which this was carried out can only create more problems,” says YNITU President Lerato Mthunzi.


By Patrik Schowitz for South China Morning Post

Buoyant stock markets are ignoring near-term warning signals on the pandemic resurgence and instead focusing on upbeat Covid-19 vaccine expectations. While financial markets’ resilience has been remarkable in the short run, what about the long-run, real-world economic legacy of the pandemic?

Most important, perhaps, is how much the pandemic has carved into long-term economic growth. The main worry concerns so-called economic scarring or constraining future growth potential.

For instance, this could mean households and firms emerging from the pandemic are more cautious in their spending and consumption behaviour as well as possibly loaded down with debt. As a result, they will be prone to saving more and investing less. Further, some sectors of the economy hit hard by the pandemic may never fully recover with, for example, a good chunk of business travel likely forever replaced by video meetings.

Workers who lost their jobs in those hard-hit areas may take a long time to find new careers, and their livelihoods might be permanently damaged. Even workers in other economic areas might become less employable over time if they remain unemployed for too long.

Set against these negatives, there is the potentially positive impact of more rapid adoption of technological advances. The same video-calling technology hurting the travel business is making many peoples’ working lives more efficient, allowing them to collaborate remotely and do more work in a given day.

Further, a huge amount of stimulus was thrown at economies by central banks through rate cuts and asset purchases as well as by governments through monetary support to affected businesses and workers.

Together, these are speeding up economic recoveries compared to past recessions. This should help keep scarring to a minimum, although it’s too early to tell what the net impact of these factors will be.

Another area of concern is inflation. In the near to medium term, the risk of higher inflation seems contained. The many factors that have pushed inflation down during the last few decades will still be in play in the next three to five years.

These include rapidly advancing technology adoption in e-commerce and working from home pushing down prices, the retirement of ageing populations weighing on consumer demand and a large amount of spare economic capacity around the globe pushing down on wages.

However, look slightly further out and the balance of risks could shift. Rapid technological progress might be here to stay, but globalisation – another factor pushing down on prices – could well have peaked already.

The worst of the demographic trends will at some point be behind us, and economic slack might increasingly disappear in the face of continued economic stimulus to keep economies going in the post-pandemic world. This continued stimulus carries at least the risk of a rise in inflation if governments and central banks increasingly act in a coordinated fashion to try and deal with an elevated debt load.

There is another lasting legacy of Covid-19: a drastically increased debt load across both public and private sectors around the world. As a result of governments’ spending to support their economies, net government debt is set to rise to nearly 100 per cent of GDP in 2021 for the Group of 20 economies, from less than 80 per cent before the pandemic.

Similarly, private companies, which had already been running up debt loads during the last cycle, in many cases have had to take on more debt to survive.

The good news is that this has so far not led to further problems in funding markets, once central banks brought the initial panic during February and March under control. Still, the new high-debt reality will increase economies’ sensitivity to rising interest rates going forward, which is exactly why policymakers will be reluctant to let them rise too quickly or too soon.

Until fairly recently, economic orthodoxy held that high debt levels in and of themselves were a serious headwind for economic growth, related to the scarring argument above. This view is increasingly being challenged by economists, but it is hard not to be apprehensive about the impact on growth and inflation from here.

Even as the near-term path out of the Covid-19 crisis is materialising with the arrival of vaccines, the jury is still out on the longer-term consequences of the pandemic.

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