COVID-19 regulations: South Africans breathe a sigh of relief

COVID-19 regulations: Face masks stay
Limited COVID-19 regulations put in place. (Photo: Freepik)

You no longer have to wear a mask outdoors and you can now be half a metre closer to people. These are among the changes that President Cyril Ramaphosa made to the COVID-19 regulations last night. 

Ramaphosa also confirmed that the state of disaster would end once public comment on the health regulations published by Health Minister, Joe Phaahla, is completed. 

Learning to live with the virus

“The end of the National State of Disaster does not mean the end of the pandemic. It just means that we are changing the way we manage the pandemic. We will rely on health rather than disaster management regulations. It means that we are learning to live with the virus in our presence,” said Ramaphosa

He said after four waves of infection, fewer people are becoming severely ill and requiring hospitalisation. And fewer people are dying as a result of the virus.

Ramaphosa added: “Our scientists tell us that this is mainly due to between 60 and 80% of the population having some form of immunity, either from previous infection or vaccination.”

Changes to COVID-19 restrictions 

Both indoor and outdoor venues can now take up to 50% of their capacity. This is provided that the criteria for entrance includes proof of vaccination or a COVID-19 test not older than 72 hours. However, in instances where no provision has been made for this, the current upper limit of 1,000 people indoors and 2,000 people outdoors remains.

“This means that if we are vaccinated or have recently tested negative, we will be able to return to watching sports in stadiums and attending music concerts, theatre performances, conferences, and other events,” said Ramaphosa.

The maximum number of people permitted at a funeral will increase from 100 to 200. As before, night vigils, after-funeral gatherings, or ‘after-tears’ gatherings are not allowed.

Another significant change is that wearing a mask outdoors is no longer necessary. But it is still compulsory in shops, malls, offices, factories, taxis, buses, trains, or any other indoor public space.

“But we do not need to wear masks when walking on the street or in an open space, when exercising outdoors or when attending an outdoor gathering.”

Get vaccinated, get tested

The COVID-19 regulations on social distancing have also been amended. A space of 1m between people in all settings is now required, except at schools. 

There are also changes to the regulations on international travel. Travellers entering South Africa will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours. All unvaccinated travellers entering the country who want to be vaccinated will be offered a jab.

But the president warned that as regulations relax, getting vaccinated is even more crucial.

“The further easing of the remaining restrictions will require that we increase the rate of vaccination among South Africans.  Statistics clearly show that people who are not vaccinated, stand a higher chance of being hospitalised or dying from COVID-19. Vaccination reduces transmission at home and at places like schools and universities where there is close contact,”  he said. – Health-e News


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