• Schools fully re-opened for the first time in nearly 18-months, following a blended learning approach. UNICEF worked with the DBE on preparations to prepare and keep schools safe, as well as on advocacy work to build confidence among all education stakeholders, pupils, parents and caregivers ahead of the opening of classrooms.
• UNICEF supported the rollout of the vaccination programme in the education sector. Teachers were prioritized for vaccination during the second phase of the rollout and more than 517,000 teaching and nonteaching staff have been vaccinated. UNICEF and the DBE have also developed a campaign to tackle teachers’ vaccine hesitancy.
• UNICEF support to routine child immunization and catch-up drives continued across all districts, with the national immunization coverage under one year at 78,4% for quarter 2 – a decline of 5% from quarter 1.
Five priority districts for the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) and child health catch-up drives met or exceeded the 90% target during both quarters. Of major concern is the North West Province which is consistently underperforming and experiencing vaccine stockouts.
• The scheduled 01 September opening of vaccination for the 18-34 year old cohort was moved forward to 20 August in an effort to increase the numbers of vaccinated across South Africa. This has increased momentum, with more than 1.5 million young people getting vaccinated to date, the focus now is to build momentum and to get as many shots in arms as possible ahead of a feared fourth wave of infections in late 2021.
• The National Institue for Communicable Diseases (NICD) detected a mutated group of the SARS-CoV-2 viruses in South Africa – identified in all 9 provinces – refered to as the C.1.2 lineage. The mutation’s transmissibility, severity of infection and implications for vaccine effectiveness remain the subject of research.
• The implications of the widespread unrest that hit parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces in July continue to be felt at multiple levels, from an increase in child hunger in affected areas and access to education affected through damage and destruction of 144 schools.