Leaked memo recommends scrapping of Covid-19 regulations

Health Minister Joe Phaahla is proposing the scrapping of the remaining Covid-19 regulations, according to a leaked memo to health MECs dated June 20, which argues that the regulations “no longer need to be in place”.

Among the regulations still in existence is the wearing of masks, which is only compulsory in enclosed spaces including public transport, and a 50% mandate on gatherings where people are fully vaccinated.

If not vaccinated, one is required to provide a negative Covid-19 test result, while travelers are required to produce a polymerase chain reaction test that is not older than 72 hours from the time of departure from the country of origin.

Phaahla said the country has exited the recent spike in cases, or the fifth wave, that the current regulations were promulgated to mitigate.

“We have been monitoring the epidemic working with the NICD [National Institute for Communicable Diseases] and the current epidemiological analysis points towards lower infection rates and that the country has exited the recent spike [5th wave], which the current limited regulations were promulgated to mitigate,” Phaahla is quoted as saying in the memo.

According to the minister, the country has seen a decline in the number of reported cases, hospitalisation, the effective reproductive rate of the virus, positivity rate through the number of tests done, and the number of deaths reported.

The recommendations are expected to be presented to cabinet on Wednesday.

“The recommendations will be discussed with the cabinet in the next 48 to 72 hours. I, therefore, request that you as MECs of health advise if you are in support or have any concerns regarding the repeal of these regulations as gazetted on May 4 2022, and feel free to offer any comments on this repeal.”

The news was cause for celebration for AfriForum, which has been contesting the Covid-19 regulations since the dawn of the national state of disaster in 2020.

Finally, it seems like the impending legal action against the regulations from AfriForum and other organisations has finally forced the government to repeal the irrational Covid-19 regulations. Big win for civil society,” said Reiner Duvenage, AfriForum’s campaign officer for strategy and content.

The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), which has also been contesting the regulations after churches remained closed post-hard lockdown level five, is calling on government officials to back Phaahla.

After months of what seemed like speaking to a brick wall, finally the national health minister has heard Kenneth Meshoe [ACDP leader] in his plea to end the wearing of masks and drop the limitations on attendance at gatherings,” said the ACDP.

“We call on all MECs, the national cabinet, and [Cyril] Ramaphosa to support minister [Joe] Phaahla’s recommendations regarding the repeal of Covid-19 regulations, as well as dropping the compulsory wearing of face masks and limitations on attendance at gatherings.”

As of Tuesday, the cumulative number of Covid-19 cases identified in South Africa was 3 986 892 with 291 new cases reported. Sixteen deaths were recorded in the last reporting period, bringing the total to 101 620 deaths.

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