South Africa is ending the year under a state of disaster

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has extended South Africa’s national state of disaster by a further month.

The state of disaster is now set to expire on 15 December 2021. This would make it the 21st month under the state of disaster since it was declared at the end of March 2020, and the 18th extension of the regulations after their first end fate of June 2020.

In a government gazette published over the weekend, the minister said that the extension considers the need to augment the existing legislation and contingency arrangements undertaken by the organs of state to address the impact of the disaster.

While the national state of disaster was initially set to lapse on 15 June 2020, the act provides that it can be extended by the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister by notice in the gazette for one month at a time before it lapses.

The government has relied on the regulations to introduce and give effect to lockdown restrictions, which it has used to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, it has also faced criticism for giving national government wide-ranging powers over the lives of citizens, with few limits and little to no oversight from parliament.

The latest extension means that South Africa will be nearing 29 months of restrictions, with the prospect of a state of disaster continuing into the new year.

Health officials have raised concerns that South Africa could be hit with a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections in late December/early January. The government will rely on the ongoing state of disaster to reintroduce lockdown restrictions at short notice if need be.

However, South Africa’s strict measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus could limit the severity of the pandemic’s next wave, says Nicholas Crisp, the deputy director-general of South Africa’s Department of Health.

“If we continue with social distancing, we will still get a fourth wave, but it will be mild. It could be a quarter of the first wave – minimal. People will get infected and get sick and have a lousy Christmas, but deaths and hospitalizations will be lower,” he told Bloomberg.

Still, the abandoning of precautionary measures or the emergence of a new variant could change the outlook, Crisp said. “We are preparing for the worst.”

On Sunday (14 November), South Africa reported 262 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,925,939.

Deaths have reached 89,484 (+8), while recoveries have climbed to 2,819,688, leaving the country with a balance of 16,767 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 23,950,956 (+39,479).

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South Africa is ending the year under a state of disaster