According to Health Minister Joe Phaahla, Government plans to keep several lockdown restrictions in place – even after the National State of Disaster is set to be lifted.
During the State of National Address (SONA), President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that work is being done to bring South Africa’s national state of disaster to a close next month.
“After noting that some of the key departments dealing with Covid-19 had not yet concluded their analysis, Cabinet approved the final extension of the National State of Disaster to 15 March 2022, in terms of Section 27(5)(c) of the Disaster Management Act.”
The President added that the country is now entering a “new phase of the pandemic”. And although an exact date for the end of the disaster is set, the country is evolving.
“Our approach has been informed throughout by the best available scientific evidence, and we have stood out both for the quality of our scientists and for their involvement in every step of our response.
“We are now ready to enter a new phase in our management of the pandemic. It is my intention to end the national state of disaster as soon as we have finalised other measures under the National Health Act and other legislation to contain the pandemic.”
Certain lockdown restrictions to stay in place
According to minister Phaahla, certain restrictions such as wearing masks, sanitising, social distancing, and limiting gatherings will stay a part of citizens’ lives until the end of the year. And even if the State of Disaster has come to an end, these lockdown restrictions will stay.
“As long as we have the circulation of the virus, especially indoors, we are going to have to continue social distancing.” There will also have to be limits on the size of gatherings until the end of this year. The virus will still be there,” he said.
Phaahla used the UK as an example as they recently lifted all restrictions. This, however, led to an increase in infections.
“Even if you have 1% of seriously ill people, when you have 200,000 infections a day, it’s a big number and can overwhelm health facilities and become a challenge. So we are trying to find the correct combination and legal framework without the Disaster Management Act.”
Minister Phaahla added that they are still working on making vaccines mandatory in South Africa, with the government also working on ensuring that people don’t get denied basic services as part of new regulations on mandatory vaccines.
“We are conscious that this is a matter we cannot avoid forever. We must define the conditions under which we advocate or support mandatory vaccination. The matter is not off the table, it’s taking a bit longer to formulate.”