by AKANI CHAUKE

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa has urged South Africans to support calls for the temporary waiver of rights on the import and manufacture of generic antiretrovirals (ARVs) to fight the
coronavirus (COVID-19).

The waiver is under the aegis of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Alongside India, South Africa has submitted a proposal to the WTO for a TRIPS to facilitate wider access to technologies needed to produce vaccines and medicines.

This is aimed at rapidly scaling up local production to ensure wider access to affordable and effective vaccines.

The waiver proposal currently enjoys the support of more than 100 countries.

Last week the United States government announced its support for the proposal, which will give the current negotiations added momentum.

“I call on all South Africans to support this effort, and in particular civil society organisations that played a leading role during the HIV/Aids pandemic,” Ramaphosa said.

He said the enforcement of intellectual property rights was critical to research and development and innovation in the quest for human progress.

“But our position as South Africa is that such a waiver is necessary at this time. It is temporary and is in direct response to an emergency.”

“This is an unprecedented situation. It requires that all intellectual property, knowledge, technology and data related to COVID-19 health technologies be put at the disposal of all.”

Ramaphosa said the international community must commit to human rights and the values of equality and non-discrimination.

“Vaccines should be viewed as a global public good. They should be made available to all, not just to the highest bidders,” he said.

“A situation in which the populations of advanced, rich countries are safely inoculated while millions in poorer countries die in the queue would be tantamount to vaccine apartheid.”

South Africa has the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the continent, with over 1,596,595 cases and 54 974 death.

It is the world’s 20th worst COVID-19 crisis. South Africa runs one of the world’s biggest HIV/AIDS ARV rollouts.

– CAJ News