The Health Department believes holding elections could put citizens at risk of contracting Covid-19.
This was part of oral submissions made by the department’s director-general Dr Sandile Buthelezi on Thursday at the IEC inquiry.
The inquiry, chaired by retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, is probing whether it would be safe for the IEC to hold elections on October 27.
Several political parties have made submissions at the inquiry giving opposing views on whether the elections should be postponed.
Buthelezi told Moseneke that the country was likely to move out of the current third wave in August. He said some provinces would likely only move out of their peak in September.
From a health perspective, the department saw holding elections as risky because it is a possible super-spreader event.
Buthelezi also said the activities that precede elections, such as campaigning and political rallies, could also pose a health threat.
“We are saying we have a high number of infections, we believe the holding of elections could put members of the public at risk of contracting the coronavirus during activities such as voter registration, the voting process itself and large political gatherings.
“We also concede that the roll-out of the vaccination may not have reached enough people for population protection ( by October),” Buthelezi told Moseneke.
The director-general explained how the country’s current rise infection was driven by the Delta variant.
He said the country would soon surpass deaths and infections seen in the first and second waves. The country is under level 4 of the risk-adjusted lockdown because of the rise in infections.
So far, just 3 million people have been vaccinated.
Buthelezi said according to the department’s target, by October, 16 million should be vaccinated. He cautioned that these estimations were reliant on a steady vaccination supply.
He said these targets could be met if the country increases vaccinations by at least 300 000 per day in the coming weeks – this working on capacity from both the public and private sector.
He said plans were under way to vaccinate people on weekends using nursing and medical students.
“We think on the positive scenario we will be on 16 million people (by end of October). If we can reach 1 million per week. We will be using senior medical and nursing students over the weekend and we think we will be able to reach that number much more easily,” Buthelezi said.
Moseneke was also interested in the department’s plans to reach “herd immunity”.
Buthelezi said the plan was that by February 2022, at least 40 million should be vaccinated.