South Africans no longer have to wear face masks and the limits on gatherings and health checks at the country’s borders are no longer needed after the government lifted several Covid-19 regulations on Wednesday.
This comes after Health Minister, Joe Phaahla, repealed several Covid-19 regulations relating to the wearing of face masks, the limits on the number of people permitted to gather at a public event, such as sports, religious and cultural events, and the checks on people entering the country. His repeal of the regulations was gazetted on June 22.
Speaking at a media briefing on Thursday, Phaala said he was speaking at a “historic” moment as the country’s situation with the pandemic had taken a positive turn by mid-June, which had led to the decision to repeal the remaining limited set of regulations under the Amendments to the 2017 Health Regulations on the Surveillance and Control of Notifiable Medical Conditions.
“On the fifth of May, we published a limited set of regulations to provide a framework for mitigating against a spike in Covid-19 infections driven by subvariant B.4 and B.5 of the Omicron variant. During late April and most of May there was a significant peak in daily infections across the country starting to drive increased admissions to hospitals and daily deaths reported,” said Phaala.
He said daily infections rose from as low as 250 cases per day in early April to just under 8000 on May 15, with the positivity rate reaching 22% on May 1 and 20% on May 15.
However, by mid-June there had been a decline in daily cases, hospitalisation, the positivity rate and reported deaths, indicating that the virus was dissipating.
He said the National Coronavirus Command Council and the National Health Council had supported the decision to repeal the regulations regarding the wearing of masks, limitations on gatherings and requests for vaccination proof or negative PCR tests at ports of entry.
DA MP and spokesperson on health, Michelle Clarke, welcomed the move saying, “810 days later, lockdown is finally over.”
“The DA welcomes the scrapping of all remaining Covid-19 regulations, including mask wearing, entry requirements and limits on social gatherings that were gazetted last night.
The DA has been calling for the lifting of these regulations for some time now. More than three months ago, we pointed out that the only state of disaster that the country was in at the time, was the self-imposed state caused by ongoing and irrational restrictions,” she said.
Clarke called on Phaahla, to repeal the draft health regulations relating to forced vaccinations and forced quarantines that are still out for public comment until August 5. FOR SA executive director Michael Swain, said he had written to the minister asking for him to withdraw the regulations in their entirety, as well as to repeal COVID-19’s listing as a notifiable medical condition.
“Extremely concerning is the continuation of COVID-19’s listing as a notifiable medical condition, which makes it possible for the Minister to promulgate regulations under the National Health Act which limit fundamental rights and freedoms in an extreme way,” said Swain.
National Employers Association of SA CEO, Gerhard Papenfus, said the repealing of the regulations highlighted the lobbying power of civil society.
“We do not thank the government for the scrapping of all the Covid-19 health regulations. They had no right to subject us to these draconian measures in the first place. If it was left to them, they would have clung to this power for much longer, if not forever. Last night they only returned stolen goods as a result of the (fact) that they simply could no longer hide the absurdity of the project.
“The lifting of the regulations is proving once again the importance of the role of civil society in opposing government overreach. No government willingly relinquishes power. If civil society does not demand it back, it just won’t happen,” he said.