CAPE TOWN - We are driving the Western Cape’s vaccine programme forward not only to save lives but to also save the economy and the millions of jobs it supports.
The reality is that this is not just a health issue but an economic one too.
We cannot grow the economy, open up to the world and create opportunities for those most vulnerable and hard hit by the pandemic, if we continue to allocate large portions of our budget to responding to Covid-19 while being forced to enforce restrictions that destroy livelihoods.
The vaccination programme will ensure that our residents are protected so that we can safely rebuild our economy by supporting the reopening of the events and hospitality industries.
It will allow for our domestic and international tourism industry to boom again.
It will create business confidence in our region, both locally and internationally, and help to ensure that new businesses start, and existing ones expand.
Of course, it is not a silver bullet.
There are fundamental structural challenges in our country that must be pursued, by adopting pro-job-creation policies.
But a successful vaccination programme is a necessary factor for this growth to happen.
If we do not get this right, we face being shut out from the world, its growth and its opportunities.
This is besides the painful consequences on the lives of our residents, who have already lost nearly 19 000 friends, family members or loved ones.
The loss inflicted by the pandemic has taken a serious toll on our social fabric and economy, further exacerbating inequality.
The NIDS-CRAM report shows us that from March 2021, the employment market began to recover, but that it did so unevenly. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, there was an 8% decrease in the employment of women, while the employment of men fully recovered.
Globally, we have seen that while some industries have prospered amid the pandemic, particularly the digital and e-commerce sectors, many have not been as fortunate, resulting in businesses closing and jobs being lost.
We know that many of the poorest households in our province have not only lost loved ones but also caretakers and breadwinners - they’ve lost livelihoods too.
In a study by StatsSA, it was found that 25.8% of respondents reported a decrease in their income amid the pandemic because of business closures and a decreased demand for goods and services.
The World Health Organization estimates that in 2021 low-income countries could see an additional $38 billion enter their GDP if they had the same vaccination rates as high-income countries.
Furthermore, in a study conducted by Discovery, Business for South Africa and PricewaterhouseCoopers, it was found that the return on investment for vaccine procurement across South Africa could be up to 20 times that of government and private healthcare’s expenditure.
The bottom line is that vaccination makes economic sense.
Vaccinating our school staff reduces the risk of them becoming seriously ill and makes our schools safer places, and vaccines will allow our students in higher education to return to class in person.
It will also provide the same protection and opportunity at offices, factories, farms, festivals, concerts, convention and shopping centres, ensuring that we can begin to fully reopen major sectors of the economy, including the events and the hospitality industry.
I often watch sporting events hosted abroad, where there are large crowds, and I think to myself how much I look forward to the Western Cape once again hosting sporting and other large-scale events safely with fans and supporters present.
By getting vaccinated we will not only be able to do the things we enjoy, but we will further be supporting the jobs and economy that come along with it.
As the Western Cape government, we are committed to doing everything possible to get as many residents vaccinated ahead of the summer season, which is also when we also experience our tourism boom.
Thailand, a tourist-hotspot, has committed to vaccinating a total of 70% of its residents by the end of the year to ensure that it is ready for upcoming tourism seasons. We must aim for the same.
The vaccine programme will help to rebuild our economy, support key industries, and develop new ones which will further contribute towards creating job opportunities.
By getting the vaccine, you will be playing a fundamental part in saving our economy and jobs.
* Winde is Western Cape premier