The health minister announced on Wednesday that South Africans no longer need to wear face masks.
Health minister Joe Phaahla quietly repealed the regulations by notice in the Government Gazette, ahead of a planned press conference on Thursday.
Limits on gatherings, and border checks – including for vaccination status – have also been dropped.
Health minister Joe Phaahla repealed the relevant regulations with a simple notice in the Government Gazette, the import of which was not immediately evident because of the technical nature of the notice.
Phaahla is due to join the minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, for a press briefing on Thursday, about cabinet deliberations after the health department advised that Covid-19 restrictions should be dropped.
They were expected to announce that President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet had signed off on ending the last major restrictions relating to Covid-19, first imposed during what was expected to be a lockdown of three weeks.
The mask directive and other restrictions had originally been imposed under the authority of a national state of disaster. When that was discontinued, the same rules were imposed under the power granted to the health minister to deal with notifiable medical conditions.
By revoking three sections of those regulations, “in their entirety”, Phaahla with immediate effect ended those obligations.
On Wednesday South Africans had the pleasure of roaming the streets and other outdoor spaces without having to wear a mask, for the first time in over two years. This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa relaxed regulations under alert Level 1. He went on to say that wearing masks indoors, is still compulsory.
The revoked rules formed part of what is formally known as the Regulations Relating to the Surveillance and the Control of Notifiable Medical Conditions.
The three sets of regulations, now scrapped completely, had each contained clauses that would have allowed Phaahla to temporarily suspend their enforcement, then reinstate them again if he saw fit.
In a letter to MECs dated two days ago, Phaahla said “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.”
He informed those provincial health leaders that recommendations to scrap regulations 16A, 16B, and 16C would be discussed by the cabinet “in the next 48-72 hours”.
Author: Gesture Chidhanguro