Govt plan to end state of disaster hampered by fears of another Covid-19 wave

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Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, Photo: Kopano Tlape/GCIS
Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, Photo: Kopano Tlape/GCIS
  • Government is inundated with finalising new regulations to permanently replace the current state of disaster.
  • Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, said they had to ensure that no vacuum was left in terms of legislation to battle the pandemic. 
  • Gungubele, however, added that President Cyril Ramaphosa would soon be announcing if the state of disaster would be postponed for another month or if new regulations would be implemented. 

The government's plan to end the state of disaster is being hampered by concern over, among others, the suspension of alcohol bans and curfews should there be another wave of Covid-19 infections.

On Thursday, Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, held a post-Cabinet media briefing and said government had made it clear that it wished to "do away with the National State of Disaster Act" but reiterated that in doing so, there was a need for caution and to ensure no vacuum was left in terms of laws to manage the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Gungubele said: 

We do not want to leave a vacuum because the biggest challenge here is, is that this thing [the pandemic] is so unpredictable. We must have means in case it comes at an unexpected time. We must have the means to take care of it. I do not doubt that very soon we will have another update on how the government will move forward.

News24 understands that there were disagreements in terms of finalising laws to manage the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Gungubele declined to comment on what the disagreements centred on.

READ | Imminent health regulations to replace state of disaster, but no word on vaccine mandates from Phaahla

He said President Cyril Ramaphosa would be making an announcement soon on whether the national state of disaster would be extended by another month or terminated, and in its place, new regulations implemented to contain the pandemic should another surge in infections and hospitalisations occurred. 

What appeared to be of particular concern and raised by some in the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) was that government would not be able to reintroduce measures such as alcohol bans and curfews which had, in the past, been implemented to curb the spread of the pandemic, should the national state of disaster be made away with. 

South Africa's state of disaster was set to expire on 15 March and Ramaphosa and Health Minister Joe Phaahla had previously stated that the latest state of disaster extension was envisaged to be the last. 

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 provided that it could be extended by the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister by notice in the gazette for one month at a time before it lapsed.

IN-DEPTH | New Covid-19 regulations on the cards: Keep indoor mask mandate, scrap temperature checks - experts

Gungubele said significant strides had been made in the effort to fight the pandemic. 

"Cabinet acknowledged the country's efforts toward the fight against Covid-19, but cautioned that the battle is not over and urged all people in South Africa to continue protecting themselves and stop the spread of the deadly virus. 

"Cabinet is also pleased that almost 32 million vaccine doses have been administered and that over 42% of our adult population is fully vaccinated. However, unvaccinated people still remain unprotected against Covid-19 and pose a health risk for themselves and those around them. Vaccination remains the best way to fight Covid-19, and Cabinet calls on everyone age 12 and above to vaccinate without further delay," said Gungubele. 

He added that Covid-19 booster shots were now available and called on those eligible to get them. 


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