While the lifting of the National State of Disaster has been widely welcomed, concerns have been raised over the impact of new regulations proposed under the National Health Act.
CAPE TOWN – While the lifting of the National State of Disaster has been widely welcomed, concerns have been raised over the impact of new regulations proposed under the National Health Act.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla and Co-operative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele held a media briefing on Tuesday following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on Monday about the lifting of the National State of Disaster.
Certain regulations such as the wearing of masks indoors and providing a vaccination certificate or a negative Covid-19 test at large events will remain in force for the next 30 days.
Asked about the enforcement of the mask mandate and also adherence to the limitations on gatherings, Dlamini Zuma said it was “in our own hands” to follow the regulations individually and collectively.
Covid-19 will now be managed in terms of the National Health Act.
Once the period for public comment closes on April 16 and comments have been considered, regulations will be finalised and promulgated.
Phaahla said the lifting or termination of the National State of Disaster didn’t automatically mean the end of the pandemic.
“Hence we encourage all eligible unvaccinated and partly vaccinated people to vaccinate because vaccines remain the only effective weapon for us to prevent the resurgence of the pandemic and a high number of casualties.”
In some countries, he said, there was a lot of concern and he pointed to the lockdown currently in force in the Chinese city of Shanghai.
Civil society organisation DearSA, which had legally challenged the state to end the State of Disaster, said the announcement was a significant victory for civil society but they remained “very concerned” over the government’s intentions to move certain “far-reaching” restrictions to the National Health Act.
“The government is essentially clinging to the extraordinary emergency powers they would now have to surrender. There is no disaster, hence there is no honest reason to amend regulations,” said DearSA chief executive Gideon Joubert.
DearSA launched a formal public participation campaign in response to the call for public comment on the proposed Health Act regulations.
More than 132,000 citizens have given input so far.