NEASA’s Gerhard Papenfus seeks clarity as to the recall of the revised Covid-19 protocols

Covid-19 protocols in South Africa, and most countries across the globe, have been stringent and ongoing, on some level, since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. On 23 December, a circular was issued by Director-General Dr SSS Buthelezi advising that, among other revisions in respect of Covid-19 protocols, contact tracing and quarantining for contacts of confirmed cases of Covid -19 (applicable to both vaccinated and unvaccinated contacts) be stopped with immediate effect. The circular stated that these revisions had been accepted based on the -COVID-19 MAC advisories of December 2021. The circular further acknowledged that the “proportion of people with some immunity from infection and/or vaccination is high – past infection in 60-80% in several sero-surveys” and that “containment strategies are no longer appropriate”, particularly in the context of the Omicron variant. These significant revisions lasted a mere five days, as the Health Department recalled the circular on 28 December. This Open Letter by Gerhard Papenfus, NEASA’s chief executive, echoes the confusion reasonably felt by many South Africans who welcomed the revisions issued a week ago. Papenfus, who has been vocal in respect of Covid-19 related policies, states: “It is clear that the 23 December 2021 circular, which was based on scientific data provided by the Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee, caused a fair amount of dissent and division in your Department and in government. It can only be assumed that the amended protocols did not suit the agenda of certain individuals and groups with vested interests.” He furthermore requests clarity and copies of all “inquiries and comments” which resulted in the revised policy changes being put on hold. – Nadya Swart

Open letter

Dr Mathume Joseph ‘Joe’ Phaahla Minister of Health

Dear Minister

Revision of contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols

On 23 December 2021, the Director General of Health issued sensible revised arrangements regarding contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols in respect of the Covid-19 ‘pandemic’.

On 28 December 2021, the Health Ministry issued a media release in which they stated that the Department, following the 23 December 2021 circular, was “inundated with media, stakeholders and public inquiries and comments”, and that, as a result, the revised policy changes are put on hold, “in line with the principles of transparency and openness, … while taking all additional comments and inputs into consideration”.

Minister, it is unprecedented that an announcement of the nature of the 23 December 2021 communique, is “put on hold” five days later, and that as a result of “media, stakeholders and public inquiries and comments”. This is simply unheard of and is testimony of some rather sinister developments in your Department.

It is clear that the 23 December 2021 circular, which was based on scientific data provided by the Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee, caused a fair amount of dissent and division in your Department and in government. It can only be assumed that the amended protocols did not suit the agenda of certain individuals and groups with vested interests.

The media release further states that the revised policy changes, as per the 23 December 2021 circular, is put on hold “while taking all additional comments and inputs into consideration”.

It is common knowledge that certain “stakeholders” benefit from keeping the current protocols in place. It is therefore possible to believe such a stakeholder (one with vested interests) would provide input or comment favouring the pre-23 December 2021 dispensation which, based on scientific evidence, provides no benefit in managing the ‘pandemic’, but only serves to restrict individual freedom and to cripple the economy even further.

In light of this, Minister, and for the sake of “transparency and openness”, we request the following:

  • clarity as to whether the 28 December 2021 media release constitutes an invitation for comment and input regarding this matter from interested parties;
  • if so, what are the terms of reference, and
  • copies of all “inquiries and comments”, including scientific evidence, submitted to your Department and which resulted in the “putting” of the 23 December 2021 directive “on ice”.

We look forward to your speedy reply.

Regards

G.C. Papenfus, Chief Executive

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