South Africans woke up this morning free from the National State of Disaster, more than 700 days after it was first implemented.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended the National State of Disaster, which was announced on 15 March 2020, and implemented on 27 March 2020, saying it empowered government to take the measures that prevented many more people from becoming severely ill and he says it saved countless lives.
But he announced last night that the State of Disaster was no longer needed, as hospitals were relatively empty and the daily Covid-19 death toll was low.
Going forward, the pandemic will be managed in terms of the National Health Act. The draft Health Regulations have been published for public comment.
Once the period for public comment closes on the 16th of April 2022 and the comments have been considered, the new regulations will be finalised and promulgated.
Ramaphosa says certain ”transitional” provisions will remain in place for a period of 30 days after the termination of the National State of Disaster to ensure essential public health precautions and other necessary services are not interrupted while the new regulations in terms of the National Health Act come into effect.
- Face masks will still be required indoors (but not outdoors)
- 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 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 test, then the current upper limit of 1,000 people indoors and 2,000 people outdoors will remain.
- 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.
- If they test positive for COVID-19, they will need to isolate for 10 days.
- The directions that provide for the payment of the special R350 Social Relief of Distress 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.
- 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.
There is one last measure that will outlive the National State of Disaster. This is the COVID-19 Vaccine Injury No-Fault Compensation Scheme.
This Scheme was brought into force in April last year to provide quick and easy access to compensation to any person who suffers a serious injury because of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Injury No-Fault Compensation Scheme, which is administered by the Department of Health, will continue after the National State of Disaster ends. The Scheme will only be terminated once it has achieved its purpose.
Ramaphosa has urged all South Africans to get vaccinated with urgency.
Our greatest responsibility is to make sure that we are vaccinated against COVID-19 and to encourage others to get vaccinated.
Vaccination is our best defence against COVID-19.
Vaccination is also the best weapon we have to reduce the chances of future waves of infection that overwhelm our health facilities – and that may require that we once more declare a state of disaster.
We must, however, remain cautious and ever vigilant.
We have learnt that this virus is unpredictable, and that the situation can change rapidly.
Therefore, we are continuing to work with the World Health Organisation and other bodies to understand the increase of cases in other parts of the world and to assess the relevant emerging scientific information.
Since this virus first arrived on our shores two years ago, we have acted together, with purpose and resolve, to overcome the pandemic.
Although the pandemic is not over, and although we continue to remain cautious, we can be confident that we are in a better position now than we have been at any other time over the last 750 days.
We are hopeful that the worst is behind us, and we are confident that there are only better days ahead.
Now is the time to grow our economy and create jobs.
Now is the time to get our country back on track.
Now is the time to heal, to recover and to rebuild.