South Africa’s health minister Joe Phaahla has recommended dropping the country’s remaining coronavirus-related restrictions.
These include the wearing of masks and curbs on gathering sizes. Phaahla made those proposals following the decline in hospitalizations and reported cases, according to a statement dated 20 June. The cabinet will discuss the proposals in the coming days, he told Bloomberg.
Phaahla’s comments come after the minister asked provincial health authorities for their views on whether South Africa should repeal its Covid-19 regulations. It is a statutory requirement that such consultations take place before regulations are promulgated or withdrawn.
Specific restrictions which will be discussed as part of the consultations include:
- Mask-wearing no longer needs to be in place;
- Restrictions on gatherings are no longer necessary;
- Entry limitations (Covid certificate) no longer need to be in place at certain venues.
Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis has already welcomed the move to scrap restrictions and said that the decision was long overdue.
“I call on all the MECs, the national cabinet and the president to support minister Phaahla’s recommendations and implement them with no further delay. This is also the case I will make at tomorrow’s President’s Coordinating Council (PCC) meeting.
“The country has clearly exited the fifth wave of infections. In addition to this, the rates of death and hospitalisation in the January and May waves were considerably lower than the previous ones, even though the majority of restrictions had already been dropped.”
He added that the decision to continue restricting South Africans’ freedom to decide for themselves whether to wear masks and restrict their attendance at large gatherings is not rationally related to saving lives, and thus unjustified.
“The remaining restrictions also disproportionately and unfairly affect certain groups in society, including young school children and ordinary, wage-earning workers.
“While patrons of restaurants are free to unmask to enjoy a meal in comfort, for example, waiting and kitchen staff are forced to be masked for up to twelve hours at a time. Children as young as seven years old are being forcibly subjected to the discomfort of all day masking, often while school management are comfortably maskless in schools’ administrative offices.
“It is time to move on from irrational Covid-19 restrictions, and from state control over private aspects of our lives in the interests of containing a disease whose threat to human life has considerably diminished.”
With further reporting by Bloomberg.