Health Minister Joe Phaahla has denied accusations that government is using the pandemic to micro-manage the nation.
He was addressing a media briefing unpacking the post-disaster management protocols.
“We are not obsessed with the Disaster Management Act. We are focused on saving lives,” said Phaahla.
“Nothing can be further from the truth,” added Phaahla.
According to civil rights group AfriForum, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on Monday evening, on the lifting of the state of disaster, won’t change anything since the current Covid-19 regulations will remain in place for a further month, after which the government’s new health regulations will come into force.
The lobby group says it’s preparing legal commentary in opposition to the new health regulations.
While the state of disaster has been lifted certain “transitional provisions” like the wearing of face masks indoors and regulations on gatherings would remain in place for a period of 30 days, while new regulations in terms of the National Health Act come into effect.
Phaahla stressed the changes are amendments and not new laws.
“These are not new laws, but amendments. The health department is not trying to run the country. These are existing laws and provisions under the National Health Act,” he said.
Phaahla reminded journalists that Covid-19 is not the first public health scare we have experienced as a country. There was a listeriosis outbreak between 11 June 2017, to 7 April 2018.
Public consultations on the new amendments to the National Health Act are now open.
This is not the end of the pandemic
Phaahla and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma stressed that the pandemic is not yet over.
“Unless something drastic happens, prevention measures such as indoor mask use is still important. In some countries there are concerns, Shangai with more than a 20 million-strong population is under lockdown.”
Phaahla and Dlamini-Zuma confirmed there will be a fifth wave and new variants by the end of April.
But, warned that it could even come earlier.
“One thing Covid taught us, even most educated people will tell you, this is what we are projecting, we can’t say for sure.”
Dlamini-Zuma said regulations in the post-Disaster Management Act will guide the country’s response to further waves.
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