Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, has warned that government can declare a national state of disaster again should Covid-19 infections spiral.
South Africa exited the national state of disaster following an announcement by president Cyril Ramaphosa during an address to the nation on Monday night. Declared in terms of the Disaster Management Act (DMA) in March 2020, the country remained in the arrangement for 750 days.
Addressing the media on Tuesday, Dlamini Zuma said the Covid-19 pandemic no longer qualified as a disaster.
In the place of the National State of Disaster, the country will be in a 30-day transitional post-disaster management period that will be legislated accordingly, with Dlamini Zuma saying the DMA “cannot be used permanently as it’s of temporary use”.
As of Monday evening, the pandemic is being managed in terms of the National Health Act while the draft Health Regulations have been published for public comment – and which close on 16 April. Once the comments have been considered, the new regulations will be finalised and promulgated.
The Minister said, however, that cabinet could revert back to the National State of Disaster should the COVID-19 pandemic escalate and reach a level where it became a disaster.
“If we look after ourselves, wear masks and make sure that we do what needs to be done… we may avoid a situation where this pandemic becomes a disaster again. That is what we’re hoping for. In the event that it becomes a disaster, we will have to revert back to the Act.”
She said since the pandemic was still existent, government needed to introduce transitional measures which were allowed by the DMA and were post-disaster measures.
The post-disaster management measures and rehabilitation measures require that the wearing of masks continue for at least another 30 days for indoor gatherings. Masks are not necessary for outdoor gatherings, she said.
Existing restrictions on gatherings will continue as a transitional measure.
This means that both indoor and outdoor venues can take up to 50% of their capacity without any maximum limit, provided that proof of vaccination or a COVID-19 test not older than 72 hours is required for entrance to the venue. Where there is no provision for proof of vaccination or a COVID-19 test, then the current upper limit of 1000 people indoors and 2000 people outdoors will remain.
The existing provisions with respect to international travel remain in place.
Travellers entering South Africa will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours. If a traveller does not submit a vaccine certificate or proof of a negative Covid-19 test, they will be required to do an antigen test on arrival and if they test positive, they will need to isolate for 10 days.
Also, the directions that provide for the extension of the validity of a learner’s licence, driving licence card, licence disc, professional driving permit and registration of a motor vehicle will remain in place.
Meanwhile, the directions that provide for the payment of the special R350 SRD grant will remain in place. This will enable the Department of Social Development to finalise the regulations that will allow the payment of the grant to continue.
“We are just transitioning that through this arrangement. It will continue through other legislation,” said the Minister.
She said the No Fault Compensation Fund would also remain in place beyond the 30 days.
“This is an arrangement for people who might have had adverse side effects from the vaccine. (These) people can still apply for compensation and that process will continue beyond the national state of disaster.”
“As long as people are still being vaccinated, they should be able to have access to the fund. But from the DMA these will only continue for the next 30 days, after that they will lapse. We will then have to go back to normal except legislation from different sectors would then take on where necessary,” she said.