End of State of Disaster does not mean end of COVID-19

Govt briefing on the ending of the State of Disaster (PIc: GCIS)

Ending the National State of Disaster does not mean the COVID-19 pandemic has ended, warned Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Tuesday afternoon.

Dlamini-Zuma said it just means South Africa has reached a stage where the pandemic can no longer be classified as a disaster and can be managed  without invoking the Disaster Management Act. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the end of the state of disaster on Monday after 750 days of national lockdown. 

“We need to introduce traditional measures which are post-disaster management and rehabilitation measures to continue managing the spread of the virus for 30 days. These include the continued wearing of masks indoors and in public gatherings. It is not necessary outdoors.” 

Regulations  will lapse in 30 days 

The Post-Disaster Management regulations are enforced for the next 30 days and then will lapse. The use of masks indoors and social distancing of one metre remain in place for this period.

The number of people at indoor gatherings remains limited to 1000 and outdoors to 2000. If  these events can go over the recommended number if the people attending are fully vaccinated and can produce their vaccine certificate or negative COVID-19 test less than 72 hours old.

“Borders that are open will continue to open and people coming in will have to show a vaccination certificate or a PCR test not more than 72 hours old,” said Dlamini-Zuma.

Dlamini-Zuma said that some measures that were introduced during the lockdown will transition into the legislation, where other sectors of government will take over. 

She referred to the basic income grant of R350 which was introduced under the exacerbated conditions of unemployment during the lockdown which will continue beyond the 30 days.

“People with adverse effects and who become sick from the vaccine  can  still apply for compensation, and this process will continue beyond the national state of disaster. For as long as vaccination continues, people  will have access to compensation.”

The Minister added that if the pandemic were to escalate and reach a level where it becomes a disaster in the next few months, then the Disaster Management Act could be reintroduced. 

Threat remains

“We are still monitoring the numbers through the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, and we can confirm that the pandemic is not over because it is visible in the numbers of daily infections,” said Minister of Health, Joe Phaahla. 

He noted that the number of daily infections fluctuates between 600 and 1500 – depending on what day of the week it is. Just below 700 people are currently infected with the coronavirus. The positivity rate is fluctuating between 5%, and on some days, up to  8%. 

“On the other side, with the Omicron variant, there has been stability in terms of severity of illness, even when the numbers were high. There are currently just below 2000 people who are admitted in hospital for covid. While just below 200 are in the Intensive Care Unit.”

Phaahle emphasised that although we no longer define the pandemic as a disaster, it remains a threat. 

Vaccination level of 70% still the goal

Phaahla said that vaccination remains a crucial intervention because people who get jabbed are  less likely to get infected.

“We still have capacity to get more people vaccinated, if we can reach 70% of adults who are vaccinated in SA, then these post-disaster measures will be unnecessary.”

Phaahla noted that the goal was to have vaccinated 30 million people, but SA is still sitting at 17 million. 

“That’s why we say, even if you have had covid and depend on your natural immunity, get your vaccination, and then take your booster shot to strengthen your immunity and protect against the virus,” he said. 

Have your say 

South Africans can comment on the gazetted amendments of the Health Regulations under the National Health Act. The amended regulations will be in effect immediately after the transitional measures have lapsed. 

Phaahla emphasised that the proposed amendments are not new changes because these laws were in existence pre-COVID-19 to contain other notifiable medical conditions. 

“Covid is not the first notifiable disease – we had Listeriosis, also Ebola, which were both scares in the country. The law requires that there must be public comments – which will be taken into consideration and will help us with final legislation,” he said.

You can email your comments to the Director General of the Department of Health, Tsakani Furumele at tsakani.furumele@health.gov.za or go to https://sapublicspeaks.co.za by no later than the 16th of April 2022.  – Health-e News


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