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

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Health Minister Joe Phaahla
Health Minister Joe Phaahla
PHOTO: Alfonso Nqunjana/News24
  • In a letter to MECs, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla recommends the country drop mask mandates and restrictions on gatherings.
  • He says the country has exited the 5th wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • On Wednesday, officials will hold a meeting to discuss dropping regulations.

For the first time since March 2020, South Africans might soon be able to rid themselves of masks entirely.

According to a letter Health Minister Joe Phaahla sent out to MECs, the country has exited the 5th wave and can, therefore, consider repealing Covid-19 regulations.

Currently, wearing masks is compulsory in indoor spaces, including shopping malls and public transport. There is also a 50% cap on the number of people allowed in a venue if people are fully vaccinated, or if people can show their negative Covid-19 tests.

The letter also recommends that the country drop its entry requirements for travellers. At the moment, travellers are expected to show a vaccination certificate, or a negative Covid-19 test.

Phaahla, in the letter, said at the time the rules were promulgated, "the status of the epidemic was very concerning and unpredictable".

At the time, he said, new daily reported Covid-19 cases in mid-April were less than 250 a day and had increased to 3 097 by 24 April.

"By 1 May, the figure had risen to 4 693 (1 777.2% increase in reported infections in the space of two weeks preceding the decision to activate the regulations on promulgation). By 15 May, the figure had increased to 7 685 reported cases – a 2 974% increase."

Phaahla said the department had been monitoring the 5th wave with the help of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

He said: 

The current epidemiological analysis points towards lower infection rates and that the country has exited the recent spike (5th wave), which the current limited regulations were promulgated to mitigate.

As of mid-June 2022, there had been a decline in the number of new daily cases, hospitalisation and reported deaths, he said.

A special President's Coordinating Council (PCC) is expected to be held on Wednesday to discuss the regulations.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has thrown his support behind the move to drop the mask mandate, as well as other Covid-19 restrictions. He confirmed he would be attending the PCC meeting on Wednesday.

In a statement on Tuesday, Winde said he was hoping to see "an end to all Covid-19 curbs".

Winde said: 

We want to see a removal of the remaining restrictions immediately, as our data clearly indicates that it is no longer required to protect our healthcare system. This includes the removal of all restrictions on gatherings, as well as the removal of the mask mandate.

He added that it was now up to individuals to demonstrate personal responsibility by using all the knowledge that they had learnt over the last two years.

If you come across Covid-19 vaccination information that you do not trust, read Covid-19 vaccine myths debunked: Get the facts here. If you can't find the facts you're looking for, email us at the address mentioned in the article and we will verify the information with medical professionals.

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