JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – South Africa has signed an agreement with Johnson & Johnson to secure 11 million Covid-19 vaccine doses and will ease restrictions due to a decline in new cases, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa said Covid-19 vaccines will be provided to all people living in South Africa regardless of citizenship or residence status.

This means immigrants will have access and most Zimbabweans are in this bracket, who border jumped into SA in search of greener pastures.

Ramaphosa also said vaccination remains voluntary and transparent.

South Africa has been the hardest-hit on the continent by the pandemic, recording almost half of the Covid-19 deaths and more than a third of reported infections.

But daily cases have fallen below 2,000, from a peak above 20,000 last month during a second wave of infections.

Ramaphosa said in a televised address that 2.8 million of the J&J doses would be delivered in the second quarter, with the rest spread throughout the year.

South Africa started administering the single-dose J&J vaccine this month in a research study targeting healthcare workers, but has not yet rolled out shots to the wider population unlike in many Western countries.

Ramaphosa said 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine had also been secured, 12 million shots would come from the World Health Organisation’s COVAX scheme and that the government was finalising its allocation from the African Union.

In total the country aims to vaccinate 40 million people, or two-thirds of the population.

Ramaphosa said that so far more than 67,000 health workers had received the J&J vaccine.

The second phase of the country’s vaccination programme, which includes the elderly, essential workers and those with co-morbidities, would start around late April or early May.

The cabinet had decided to move the country from alert level 3 to 1, he added, meaning a shorter curfew from midnight to 4AM, gatherings would be allowed and alcohol sales would return to normal licence provisions.

“The easing of restrictions should not be viewed as a reason to abandon precautions,” Ramaphosa said. “The threat of a third wave is constantly present.” – Reuters