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Pandemic news

It’s two years later — scientists lash out at Covid-19 draft regulations

It is incompetence, say Shabir Madhi, Glenda Gray and other top minds in SA

23 March 2022 - 10:37
Get with the programme, says Shabir Madhi and other top scientists.
Get with the programme, says Shabir Madhi and other top scientists.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

A group of top scientific minds in the country have lashed out at government’s draft regulations on the management of Covid-19 and other notifiable medical conditions.

On Tuesday night President Cyril Ramaphosa said the end of the national state of disaster would not mean the end of the pandemic.

“It just means we are changing the way we manage the pandemic. We will be relying on health regulations rather than disaster management regulations.”

In a strongly-worded opinion piece in Daily Maverick, Marc Mendelson from the University of Cape Town, Shabir Madhi, Jeremy Nel and Francois Venter from Wits University, Glenda Gray from the Medical Research Council, and Regina Osih from the Aurum Institute said the draft regulations are “ill-conceived” and are “oblivious to the new realities of Covid-19, two years into a pandemic”.

They said population immunity is very high at more than 80% and “the high force of SARS-CoV-2 infections in SA, and the 300,000 excess deaths that have been mostly attributed to Covid-19, are indicative of the failure of the government-enforced regulations to prevent significant numbers of infections in SA”.

Earlier strategies extended the period over which the same number of infections would have occurred, and this gave the health department a chance to prepare, they argued, but two years later they make no sense as “decoupling of cases from severe disease and death seen during the Omicron wave in future waves” is likely to continue.

They said regulations that try to prevent spread will hamper economic recovery and are “inappropriate”.

“What was hoped for was a mature, thoughtful set of regulations that considered these new realities. What was published, however, was an inconsistent, incoherent and illogical set of draft regulations firmly rooted in 2020 when knowledge about Covid-19 was more rudimentary,” said the authors. 

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