Government extends South Africa’s state of disaster as it nears two-year mark

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 March 2022. This would make it nearly 24 months the country has been under a state of disaster since it was first declared at the end of March 2020.

“The extension follows a special Cabinet meeting to determine the extent to which the management of the Covid-19 pandemic still requires the existence of the National State of Disaster and the legal framework to manage the virus outside the Disaster Management Act,” the minister said.

“This will allow the government to establish alternative measures to detect and contain further outbreaks.”

Under the current regulations, nearly all economic and social restrictions have been lifted, and civil liberties are unrestricted, Dlamini-Zuma said. She added that South Africa and the rest of the world are now entering a ‘new phase’ of the pandemic that requires us to manage to live with the virus.

“Lessons from other countries have taught us that the lifting of all restrictions may lead to an uptick in the number of infections,” she said.

“To this effect, we need to continue wearing our masks at all times when in public, observe a social distance, wash our hands regularly with soap or alcohol-based sanitiser and always ensure that we are in properly ventilated spaces. We need to remember that not wearing masks in public places as required remains a criminal offence.”

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.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has indicated that the latest extension will be the last.

Read: Good news for South Africa’s state of disaster

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Government extends South Africa’s state of disaster as it nears two-year mark