South Africa plans to keep several lockdown restrictions in place, even after it has lifted the national state of disaster, says health minister Joe Phaahla.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, Phaahla said this is likely to include rules around the wearing of face masks, sanitising, social distancing, and limiting the size of gatherings. He said:
As long as we have the circulation of the virus, especially indoors, we are going to have to continue social distancing. There will also have to be limits on the size of gatherings until the end of this year. The virus will still be there.
Phaahla pointed to the UK’s recent decision to lift all restrictions, which led to an uptick in the number of infections. He said they are trying to find the correct combination and legal framework without the Disaster Management Act.
Phaahla added that work on a vaccine mandate for South Africa is still ongoing, with the government working to ensure people are not denied basic services as part of new regulations on mandatory vaccines. He added:
We must define the conditions under which we advocate or support mandatory vaccination. The matter is not off the table, it’s taking a bit longer to formulate.
Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa Thursday announced that South Africa’s state of disaster will be lifted once other measures to regulate and manage the COVID-19 response are finalised.
In his state of the nation address on Thursday evening (10 February), Ramaphosa said that the end to the state of disaster will be confirmed once new regulations outside of the Disaster Management Act are formulated.
No specific timeline for ending the state of disaster was given.