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Government a step closer to ending state of disaster: Phaahla

24 February 2022 - 17:01
Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla. File photo.
Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla. File photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla has confirmed that the government is a step closer to finalising regulations that could see the national state of disaster lifted soon.

“We are almost at the tail end of finalising this matter ... We are hoping that by next week there should be a national coronavirus command council [NCCC] meeting where alternative regulations can be presented [by health and other departments],” said Phaahla.

The minister was briefing journalists on Thursday in his capacity as the co-chair of the social protection, community and human development (SPCHD) cluster after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address.

During his address, Ramaphosa assured the nation that the national state of disaster would be lifted “soon”.

In an interview with the Sunday Times after Ramaphosa’s address, Phaahla said once the state of disaster was lifted it would mean that “if the bulk of those controls have to be under the National Health Act, the minister of health would then be the regulator”.

“The legal people must just confirm with us whether, as it’s crafted now, the act empowers the minister of health to regulate certain behaviours of an entire population, like the Disaster Management Act does,” he said.

On Thursday he said, “As the president announced in the Sona, we are working on exiting the national state of disaster. There are various departments that are working on alternative measures to replace the state of disaster.”

Phaahla said the department of health was leading in this regard.

“We are working on our health regulations, making sure that we can have enough protection measures through the National Health Act and its regulations to replace the disaster management act.

The national department of health, Phaahla said, would cover:

  • surveillance and control of notifiable disease;
  • public health measures at points of entry;
  • management of human remains; and
  • environmental health.

“These should be ready to be presented to the NCCC early next week.”

However, he cautioned South Africans not to let their guards down too early.

“The scientists are telling us that the fifth wave is on its way. We are not sure how it’s going to be but we are optimistic that it might, even if it’s highly infectious, like Omicron, be milder in terms of illness. But we don’t know.”

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