Toby Shapshak

Vaccine mandates will be introduced for the first time in South Africa’s history, President Cyril Ramaphosa told the nation on Sunday night.

People will have to be vaccinated “for specific activities and locations”, such as workplaces and public spaces.

“We still have too many people who express doubt. This is the time to get vaccinated.” He added: “Vaccines do work, and vaccines are saving lives.”

In the first family meeting in months, the president said the country would enter a fourth wave in December. But he said there would be no new Covid-19 restrictions for now and that Level 1 lockdown remained in place.

This is despite the new variant found by South African scientists, labelled Omicron by the World Health Organization on Friday. 

The Omicron variant has alarmed the whole world, with many countries imposing travel bans. Ramaphosa had tough words for countries that had done this. “These restrictions are unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our Southern African sister countries.

“The prohibition of travel is not informed by science,” he said. 

Ramaphosa praised South Africa’s “world-renowned and widely respected” scientists who had tracked the Omicron variant.

“The early detection of this variant means that we are better equipped to respond,” he said.

“We know that the variant is responsible for most of the infections found in Gauteng… and is now showing up in all other provinces in the country.”

Infections in Gauteng have shot up to an average of 1,600 new daily cases in the last week, up from 500 new daily cases the week before.