South Africa is exploring the possibility of incentivising people to get vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus, but there will be no cash incentives, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Sunday.
Phaahla also said that government would not participate in any debate to make vaccines compulsory, leaving this to the private sector to implement as it saw fit.
“What we are exploring is the possibility where with some kind of confirmation that you are vaccinated, we could start opening up various activities ” sports, cultural and more business and other kinds of get-togethers,” Phaahla said while speaking to reporters here.
The minister said among the things being considered was allowing access to football matches and music concerts to those who were vaccinated.
Currently spectators and audiences at such mass events are prohibited under Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
“Those are the kind of things we are looking at as incentives so that there can be a benefit; not just because I am saving my life, but I can access more and more opportunities because of the fact that I am vaccinated,” Phaahla said, adding that his department has been holding talks with the ministry of sports, arts and culture as well as people in the entertainment industry to see how this could be achieved together.
But the South African government did not have the resources to offer cash incentives for vaccination, as had been done in the US, the minister said.
Encouraging people to ignore the scaremongers who were spreading fake news about the vaccine causing deaths, Phaahla said there would be no compulsion from government for people to take the vaccines.
“Our priority as government is to mobilise and convince people to take the vaccine voluntarily. The thrust of our strategy is to speak to people and allay their fears so they can come voluntarily to receive the vaccination,” he said.
“We are conscious of the fact that as people want to get more and more freedom, this issue will be quite topical because the question will always be is there a way, either as an employer or as a provider of services, that you can determine a policy to say in my restaurant, only those who are vaccinated will be allowed.
“They must just work within the law. At this stage it is not our priority to think about some kind of legislation which says that every adult must vaccinate,” Phaahla said.
The minister’s remarks came as major insurer Discovery became the first company in South Africa to announce that Covid-19 vaccinations would be compulsory for all its staff.
Citing a growing trend abroad, Discovery CEO Adrian Gore said the decision was taken after about 14,000 clients and over 20 staff succumbed to Covid-19.
So far, only 6.3 million adult South Africans have received the jab out of a population of 58.7 million.