New health regulations gazetted by SA Government under the wire last night

South African citizens woke up to a different reality this morning, after the South African Government gazetted the Draft Health Regulations under the wire at 11pm last night. The Health Department also extended the period for public consultations on the proposed health regulations by three months. The whole situation is shady. Firstly, the public were given the opportunity to comment on the regulations prior to their promulgation. If the government had, in fact, carefully considered the public’s extensive commentary and unequivocal resistance against these regulations, it would not, in good faith, have gazetted the regulations. Secondly, the extension of the period for public comment implies there was little to no consideration. Among other provisions, the new regulations continue to mandate mask-wearing in public spaces, limit numbers at gatherings to 50% of venue capacity, and require vaccination or Covid-19 test results for entry into South Africa. Various organisations, including Solidarity and Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA, have vowed to challenge these regulations in the event they ‘passed muster’ somehow. In an interview with BizNews last week, Solidarity’s Connie Mulder said the union would launch a monumental court case against the SA Government on behalf of the people. – Nadya Swart

Health Minister extends public consultation period for health regulations

The Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla has extended the period for public comments on health regulations relating to the Surveillance and Control of Notifiable Medical Conditions; Public Measures in Points of Entry; Management of Human Remains and Environmental Health by three months with effect from Thursday, 5 May 2022.

The new closing date for submission of comments is 5 July 2022, and this extension is in line with statutory requirements and will afford the department sufficient time to go through and consider all comments and representations on the regulations.

Comments must be sent only to this email: [email protected] (link sends e-mail) on or before the expiry of three (3) month period from the date of publication.

All members of the public who submitted comments in the initial public consultation process do not need to resubmit these comments as all comments already submitted will be considered as part of this process.

In order to ensure that there is no gap in terms of legal instruments to contain the spread of Covid-19 and future notifiable medical conditions, the department has gazetted the limited regulations for implementation with effect from Thursday, 5 May 2022.

These regulations mainly focus on wearing of face masks, gatherings and persons entering the country.

With regard to wearing a face mask, a person must, when entering and being inside an indoor public place, wear a face mask. This does not apply to children at school. Again, under these limited regulations, no person may use any form of public transport unless wearing a face mask.

Gatherings are more clearly defined as planned assembly or meeting at a particular venue involving more than 100 persons.

For any indoor and outdoor gatherings, a maximum of 50% of the venue capacity may be occupied provided every attendee is vaccinated against Covid-19 and produces a valid vaccination certificate. Alternatively, attendees must produce a valid negative Covid-19 test result not older than 72 hours, prior to the date of the gathering.

If complying with this indoor gathering requirement is not possible, then attendance shall be limited to 1,000 people or 50% of the capacity, whichever is smaller, while the attendance at an outdoor gathering shall be limited to 2,000 people or 50% of the capacity, whichever is smaller.

All international travellers arriving at South African ports of entry must be vaccinated against Covid-19 and produce a valid vaccination certificate; or produce a valid negative PCR Covid-19 test result not older than 72 hours before the date of departure.

Alternatively, travellers have another option of producing a valid negative antigen Covid-19 test result performed by a medical practitioner, registered public health authority or accredited/approved laboratory obtained not older than 48 hours before the date of departure.

In a case where an international traveller is unable to produce a vaccination certificate or a negative PCR test result older than 72 hours or a negative antigen test result obtained at least 48 hours prior departure, then he/she must undergo antigen testing at the port of entry.

If the person tests positive for Covid-19 in the antigen test, the traveller will still be admitted into the country but, if the traveller is experiencing symptoms of Covid-19, they must self-isolate a period of 10days after admission into South Africa.

However, the vaccination or testing requirement is not applicable to travellers who are under the age of 12 years and daily commuters from neighbouring countries.

It is important to emphasise that the proposed amendments to the health regulations do not amend the National Health Act, 2003 but rather augment certain existing regulations.

The department would like to remind people that, despite the current process to source public comments on the health regulations, there is still an imperative to provide options to manage the Covid-19 pandemic and other notifiable medical conditions without invoking the state of national disaster.

Therefore, members of the public are reminded that Covid-19 remains a life-threatening disease, and the country is not yet out of the woods.

The only way we can protect ourselves and our loved ones against this pandemic and the current rising number of positive cases is through vaccination and adhering to preventative measures at all times.

Fully vaccinated people are urged to consider booster shots to increase their immunity.

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