As calls mount to do away with the National State of Disaster, president Cyril Ramaphosa says new health regulations that are meant to replace the lockdown regulations have been published.
The president said public consultations with leaders from different sectors of society are underway and that he will address the nation on the process in the coming days. The president said this when he responded to oral questions in the National Assembly on Thursday.
The Department of Health this week published the proposed health regulations to deal with Covid-19 and other notifiable medical conditions outside the National State of Disaster.
Government is calling for public comments to allow the public to have meaningful input into the decision-making process after it extended the National State of Disaster with another month.
The proposed regulations seek to introduce a number of control measures which include the surveillance and the control of notifiable medical conditions; public health measures in points of entry; management of human remains; and finally regulations relating to environmental health.
According to the proposed regulations with regards to measures in ports of entry, it is proposed all people entering or exiting South Africa during the pandemics, should present negative PRC test results not older than 72 hours, in the event that they do not have a full vaccination certificate.
This repeals the current requirement of negative PRC test results for all incoming travellers, with or without a vaccination certificate.
As part of efforts to manage transmission during large gatherings considered to be possible superpreader events, the regulations proposed the restriction of night vigils and after-funeral gatherings. The indoor and outdoor gatherings may be occupied up to 50% of the venue capacity provided there is production of a valid vaccine certificate; practice of social distance of at least one metre and compulsory wearing of masks.
The attendance of indoor gatherings without proof of vaccination will be limited to only 1000 people and 2000 for outdoors with social distancing of at least one metre social distance.
“The health regulations have been published and there are processes that we are engaged in and are engaging with various leaders.
“We have met with traditional leaders; we have met with various other leaders, as well as religious leaders and we are talking precisely about this and I can assure you again, we are going to lift the (National) State of Disaster and we are going to put in place health regulations – regulations that will enable everyone to feel safe but at the same time, we want to boost vaccination,” president Ramaphosa said.
The president said the interests of citizens, when it comes to their lives and livelihoods, has been his greatest preoccupation for the better part of the last two years.
“And as I have said, I want to see the (National) State of Disaster coming to an end but I am not going to be reckless and I am going be orderly and in days, I am going to address the nation and explain precisely where we are headed to and how we should traverse this new route that we are going on,” he said.
Asked why government has kept stadiums closed from the general public during sports games, the president said vaccine hesitancy was the main reason as government relies on scientific advice before it can take any steps.
“Many countries around the world are exactly where we are and those countries that have opened up their stadia to 100% participation, they are at 70 and 80% vaccination.
“Now we have been saying let us all as leaders participate in encouraging our people to vaccinate. I am yet to hear and to see leaders in the opposition benches talking about vaccination, going on the ground and getting people to be vaccinated. Instead, they talk against vaccination,” he said.
The president said while government plans to lift the National State of Disaster, there are certain measures that will need to be kept in place in order to enable government to manage the pandemic.
“The pandemic is still here with us. Covid-19 has not suddenly just disappeared through the door or the window and we are still concerned about those people who get infected; who get hospitalised and who die.”
Government is also concerned about those people who have not been vaccinated as yet.
“Now what we said we will do, we will move away from the harder (National) State of Disaster regulation to a health one because we are dealing with a health pandemic, a pandemic that affects our health as a whole,” said president Ramaphosa.