The South African Government says it has made a $19m down payment to secure a place in the World Health Organisation’s Covax Facility.
The payment amounts to the 15% of the total cost of securing access to vaccines for about 10 per cent of the population.
The move ensures that South Africa will receive its equitable share of the vaccine once it becomes available.
The country had missed the initial deadline to make the payment last week and was given an extension to this week.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the process has brought together government, international partners and business for the sole purpose of delivering quality healthcare to South Africa.
“This is what we have been advocating for when we speak of multi-sectoral collaboration and it is gratifying to see this spirit being harnessed for the good of our people, Africans and the global village,” he said.
Meanwhile, South African scientists said they are working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to investigate a new variant of coronavirus, currently surging in many parts of the country.
The new variant known as 501.V2 was identified by a genomics team led by the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform.
It was discovered earlier this month, when scientists noticed a number of mutations during routine surveillance of the virus.
Local scientists say that South Africa’s new variant appears to be unrelated to the one found in the UK.
But it does share one important mutation. The shared mutation affects the way the virus attaches to human cells – and scientists speculate that is what is behind the faster transmission of this virus.
Researchers in the UK say the mutated virus there is 70% more transmissible. But experts in South Africa say they are still gathering data on this, but expect this may be the case here too.
In South Africa the new variant was first found in the Eastern Cape province and has since spread to the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
Mutations in viruses are not uncommon, experts say. It is not clear at this stage whether the new variants are more deadly.
Some countries – including Germany and Switzerland – have now banned flights from South Africa and the UK, while El Salvador has banned any travellers who were in the UK and South Africa in the last 30 days.