Pushback against ‘stealth’ state of disaster in South Africa

The opposition Democratic Alliance says it will formally reject the draft regulations to the National Health Act which aim to replace South Africa’s state of disaster and lockdown restrictions.

The DA has criticised the planned laws as the government’s way of clinging to power by extending the state of disaster permanently through legislation.

“The regulations, which are currently open to public participation, seek to not only regulate when a person has contracted a notifiable medical condition, they also regulate persons who are suspected to have contracted said conditions from a list of conditions,” it said.

“Worryingly, the regulations pave the way for patients to be forced to submit to medical examination, which may include providing any bodily sample. These patients – or suspected patients – may also be forced into a quarantine facility or isolation site and be forced to mandatory prophylaxis, treatment, isolation or quarantine.”

The party also raised concerns around regulations that determine how quarantine facilities are selected and restrictions around self-isolation.

“There is no need for permanent regulations and it only proves that the government wants to effectively extend the state of disaster or exercise more control over citizens.

“Based on the current state of our public healthcare, it is especially worrisome that the state wants to enforce these regulations – not only with confirmed cases, but also suspected cases of the particular medical condition. We, therefore, urge the public to participate in this process and object to this flagrant attempt of state control.”

The DA said it will also write to the chairperson of the portfolio committee on health for this matter to be addressed through the relevant channels in parliament.

“The minister will account to the DA and to parliament for this draft regulations. As a party that believes in the rule of law, we will fight any attempt to effectively extend the State of Disaster as well as the limiting of the rights of patients.”

Legal fightback 

Trade union Solidarity has raised similar concerns and threatened legal action should the government continue with the implementation of these regulations.

“Almost all of these regulations represent the type of measures that had little or no impact during the lockdown. Clearly, no rational motivation exists for this, and one gets the impression that the government is now simply regulating for the sake of regulating,” said Connie Mulder, head of the Solidarity Research Institute (SRI).

“The chances that even a single person’s life would be saved by these regulations are very slim, while the regulations can indeed cause incredible economic and social damage. This is totally insane.”

Solidarity argues that the implementation of these regulations would be a huge step backwards for the country, especially as the international community moves to lift all lockdown regulations.

“It is only in South Africa where the government requires permanent measures to be in place that in effect would establish a permanent state of disaster.

“In addition to the undesirableness of any such regulations, these measures have been extremely poorly worded: no targets for the repealing of the measures are mentioned; national solutions to local problems are created, and these measures threaten to bring the whole country to a standstill for a few cases.

“These proposed regulations are not only harmful; they are absurd, illogical and indicate a government that is completely disconnected from reality,” Mulder said.

Read: South Africa eases restrictions as it plans to end state of disaster – here’s 4 things you still can’t do

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Pushback against ‘stealth’ state of disaster in South Africa