‘I’m setting an example:’ Johann Rupert defends jumping COVID-19 vaccine queue

Johann Rupert
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

South African billionaire businessman Johann Rupert has stoked controversy in a local town in Switzerland after reportedly jumping the queue for COVID-19 vaccines – but he says he was setting an example.

According to a local publication Tages-Anzeiger, Rupert received the first of two jabs in mid-January in Frauenfeld, the capital of Thurgau, before the town officially launched its vaccination programme.

‘Looking for a vaccine’

He reportedly arrived in Switzerland in December “desperately looking for a vaccine,” but his first attempt at a clinic in Lucerne failed.

He eventually got his jab at the Hirslanden hospital group, which is owned by South Africa’s Mediclinic. Rupert’s Remgro owns a 45 percent stake in Mediclinic.

The controversy was fuelled by the fact that Rupert’s residence in Switzerland is in Satigny, which is close to Geneva and is geographically far from Thurgau.

Furthermore, Thurgau was planning to start its vaccination programme with people aged 75 years and older, while Rupert is 70 years old. However, it was reported that he has a pre-existing chronic condition.

‘Setting an example’

Commenting on the controversy, the businessman reportedly said, “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.”

He was referring to Richemont, his luxury goods company based in Geneva. However, local politicians expressed outrage at Rupert’s apparent “preferential treatment.”

Nina Schläfli, President of the Social Democratic Party of Thurgau, said it was an “affront” to the local population and “inconceivable” that a “billionaire could fly in and everyone else would have to fall behind.”

Johann Rupert net worth 

Johann Rupert is worth an estimated $7.2 billion (around R110 billion), according to a real-time net-worth tracking by Forbes on 22 January, 2021.

This makes him South Africa’s second-richest person and Africa’s fifth-richest. He ranks at number 375 among the world’s billionaires.

Besides Remgro and Richmmont, the businessman also founded Reinet, an investment company based in Luxembourg.

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