×

We've got news for you.

Register on TimesLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

Your Covid-19 questions answered

Why is the country possibly scrapping face masks?

22 June 2022 - 07:00
Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla has recommended dropping some key Covid-19 measures after the passing of the fifth wave and fewer cases being recorded.
Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla has recommended dropping some key Covid-19 measures after the passing of the fifth wave and fewer cases being recorded.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

Health minister Joe Phaahla has recommended dropping some key Covid-19 measures after the passing of the fifth wave and fewer cases being recorded. 

These include wearing masks, limits on gatherings and entry requirements.

In a letter circulating online, Phaahla asked provincial health authorities for their views on whether the Covid-19 regulations should be abolished. Business Day confirmed the document’s authenticity and support for the proposal.

The letter pointed out there has been a decline in cases, hospitalisations and deaths. 

Phaahla said the recommendations will be discussed with cabinet “in the next 48-72 hours”.

“We have been monitoring the epidemic, working with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and current epidemiological analysis. The figures point towards lower infection rates, and that the country has exited a recent spike of infections,” said Phaahla. 

“The health department propose that regulations on mask wearing indoors, gathering limitations, and venue entry limitations no longer need to be in place. The recommendations will be discussed with the cabinet in the next 48-72 hours.”

Wearing masks is compulsory indoors, including in shopping malls and on public transport. There is a 50% limit on the number of people allowed in a venue if people are fully vaccinated, or if people can show negative Covid-19 tests.

Should the recommendation be approved, SA will join a growing list of countries that have scrapped all Covid-19 restrictions, including 29 European countries

'An end to all Covid-19 curbs'

Western Cape premier Alan Winde welcomed the recommendations and emphasised all remaining Covid-19 restrictions must be removed. He confirmed he would be attending the president’s co-ordinating council meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

“Finally we may now see an end to all Covid-19 curbs, as I have consistently called for. But it has to be emphasised it is disappointing that it has taken so long,” said Winde. “We want to see a removal of the remaining restrictions immediately, as our data clearly indicates that it is no longer required to protect our healthcare system. This includes the removal of all restrictions on gatherings, as well as the removal of the mask mandate. It is now up to individuals to demonstrate personal responsibility by using all the knowledge that we have learnt over the past two years.”

Wits University professor and vaccinologist Shabir Madhi also welcomed the proposals.

“At long last coming to grips with the reality. Effective end of Covid-19 restrictions. Now to work on the collateral economic and other damage of what was self-inflicted due to stubbornness of not following the science,” he said. 

Support independent journalism by subscribing to the Sunday Times. Just R20 for the first month.


subscribe

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.