Covid-19 regulations: Health minister to 'unpack' implications of repealing mask mandate

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Health Minister Joe Phaahla
Health Minister Joe Phaahla
PHOTO: Getty Images
  • Health Minister Joe Phaahla has repealed remaining Covid-19 regulations.
  • The implications are expected to be unpacked on Thursday.
  • The repeal comes ahead of legal action on the regulations, lodged by Solidarity and AfriForum.

Health Minister Joe Phaahla has gazetted a repeal of major Covid-19 regulations on mask-wearing, limited gatherings and travel requirements.

But the "decisions and their implications" will only be explained to South Africans later on Thursday, the health department said.

Phaahla signed the notice on Wednesday.

The repeal targets three sections of the Regulations Relating to the Surveillance and the Control of Notifiable Medical Conditions.

Phaahla's spokesperson, Foster Mohale, would not comment further on the matter, saying that the minister would unpack the issue during a media briefing on Thursday morning.

In terms of the repeal, South Africans are no longer required to wear masks in indoor public places or on public transport. It also includes regulations for venues that were required to stick to 50% capacity for indoor gatherings on condition of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test.

The repeal also affects regulations requiring travellers to be vaccinated or to produce a negative PCR test.

READ | No more masks: Health Minister Joe Phaahla recommends scrapping Covid-19 regulations as SA exits 5th wave

In a statement, Solidarity said it welcomed the repeal.

Solidarity, which started a legal battle over the regulations along with AfriForum and other interest groups, said the government had no choice but to withdraw them before the matter went to court.

Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann said: 

There was no way that the regulations would have passed a legal test in court. These regulations were born out of sin right from the start. It created the absurd situation where the South African public did not know by 23:00 at night what would greet them in the morning. It was totally unacceptable and threatened to make the extremely damaging phenomena of so-called family meetings and 'with immediate effect' during the state of disaster, permanent.

Solidarity said it was the second time the government "suddenly lifted" regulations before a court challenge.

"Just like the state of disaster, these regulations were also irrational and unlawful. And just like the lifting of the state of disaster on 5 April 2022, the government realised it and wanted to avoid the court case at all costs… Naturally, we welcome the withdrawal thereof, but the regulations should not have been there in the first place. We trust that the government has finally learnt its lesson in terms of the consequences that the unreasonable restriction of citizens' rights has," Hermann said.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde supports the dropping of the regulations.

He said data from the province's healthcare system "clearly" indicated that the restrictions were no longer required.

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