Government meeting in the next week to discuss lifting South Africa’s state of disaster

Health minister Joe Phaahla says the government is working on new proposals to lift South Africa’s national state of disaster.

Addressing a media briefing on Friday (14 January), Phaahla said a team comprised of members from the Department of Health, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and the Department of Justice have been tasked with developing the possible proposals – which are largely expected to be introduced under the Health Act.

This team will make a presentation to the National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet within the next seven days, and depending on these discussions, further changes could be announced by president Cyril Ramaphosa, Phaahla said.

While Phaahla noted calls by civil society groups and opposition parties to lift the state of disaster, he said that the government would not be ‘rushed’ into lifting the regulations as they are still necessary for addressing the ongoing pandemic.

While the national state of disaster was initially set to lapse on 15 June 2020, legislation provides that it can be extended by the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister by notice in the gazette for one month at a time before it lapses.

It has been enacted for 22 consecutive months since it was first declared at the end of March 2020, while the current extension lapses in mid-January.

The government has relied on the regulations to introduce and give effect to lockdown restrictions, which it has used to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has subsequently faced criticism for giving national government wide-ranging powers over the lives of citizens, with few limits and little to no oversight from parliament.

End of the fourth wave 

Phaahla said that all provinces have now reached the peak of the fourth wave, while Gauteng has officially exited its fourth wave.

In the first week of 2022, South Africa saw a 13.9% reduction in the number of new cases with 46,680 cases reported compared to the 54,191 cases seen a week prior, the health minister said. Over this time period, the Western Cape had the highest number of new cases followed by KwaZulu-Natal and then Gauteng. All other provinces accounted for only 11% of new cases.

Phaahla said a 4.8% reduction in reported deaths and a 6.3% reduction in hospitalisations has also been reported over the last seven days.

“The national recovery rate is very encouraging now standing at 94% and current active cases as of yesterday stand at 106 883 which is a 22.7% reduction of active cases compared to 24 hours earlier.

“The positivity rate of tests has gone down from the highest in the middle of December of 25-30% to 14% which is still high, we want to get down to less than 5% which will indicate stability.”

On Thursday (13 January), South Africa reported 5,920 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 3,546,808. Deaths have reached 92,989 (+159), while recoveries have climbed to 3,346,936, leaving the country with a balance of 106,883 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 28,782,337.

Read: Unvaccinated workers in South Africa could face regular Covid testing: CEO

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