Problems for South Africa’s state of disaster and new lockdown rules: report

The government could extend the national state of disaster by a further month as it battles to finalise laws to manage the Covid pandemic, BusinessDay reports.

Sources involved in the process told the newspaper that there is disagreement over whether these regulations should be immediately brought into effect without public consultation.

There are also concerns that government cannot reintroduce alcohol bans and curfews going forward without a state of disaster in place.

South Africa’s state of disaster is currently set to expire on 15 March 2022. This would make it 24 months since it was first declared at the end of March 2020.

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.

Ramaphosa has previously indicated that the latest state of disaster extension will be the last, with the government now expected to introduce more permanent long-term regulations to help manage Covid in the country.

In a media briefing on Friday (4 March), health minister Joe Phaahla said his department has been hard at work to formulate new regulations to replace the country’s state of disaster and is now ready to present its proposals to the cabinet and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).

Phaahla said these recommendations would replace the National Disaster Act. “We hope the reviewed health regulations and other regulations from other departments will assist in guiding a reopening – especially in the leisure and tourism industries,” he said.

The health minister said senior government officials are also likely to present policies on vaccine mandates in South Africa in the coming week.

Read: One in 200 South Africans may have died of Covid-19, study shows

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Problems for South Africa’s state of disaster and new lockdown rules: report