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Johann Rupert jumps queue for Covid vaccine, angers Swiss officials


According to a Swiss newspaper, Rupert flew to Switzerland in December “desperately looking for a vaccine”

Chairman of Remgro Limited Johann Rupert. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

SWISS politicians are up in arms after South Africa’s second richest man, billionaire Johann Rupert received the Covid-19 vaccine at a Swiss clinic that his family owns before it was available to the public.

According to Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, Rupert flew to Switzerland in December “desperately looking for a vaccine”.

Rupert received a vaccine from the Hirslanden hospital group in Frauenfeld, the capital of Thurgau. Hirslanden is owned by South Africa’s Mediclinic, which Rupert’s Remgro owns a 45% stake in.

A spokesman for the clinic, Hirslanden, confirmed the report, saying the 70-year-old Rupert qualifies as a “test“ patient before the scheme’s official start because he is overweight, diabetic, and has high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.

The clinic was chosen by the Swiss government to distribute the vaccine in Thurgau, a canton in eastern Switzerland. Rupert’s official domicile is Satigny, near Geneva – literally the opposite end of the country from where he was vaccinated.

It is alleged that Rupert’s first attempt to receive the vaccine at a clinic in Lucerne failed, before he was able to receive the first of two shots shortly before Thurgau’s vaccination programme opened to the public.

Rupert himself was quoted as saying: “It is important to me to set an example for all employees in my company. My message is: only through vaccination will we manage to get out of this crisis.”

The entrepreneur is 70 years old. In Switzerland, when the vaccination campaign starts, usually only people aged 75 and over can register for treatment. According to Hirslanden, however, the entrepreneur belongs to the risk group due to various chronic pre-existing conditions and can therefore be vaccinated.

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