President Cyril Ramaphosa has indicated that the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) is considering whether or not to continue with the COVID-19 national state of disaster.
The government proclaimed a state of disaster in March 2020, allowing it to implement regulations and restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. It has renewed it on a monthly basis since then.
Government reviewing state of disaster
Speaking in Cape Town on Wednesday (19 January), Ramaphosa said, “We are examining how best we should handle the state of disaster in this period where the infections have tapered down and to see the efficacy of using the state of disaster legislation or utilising other measures.
“The NCCC is examining exactly that to see whether we can use health protocols, health regulations to move forward in our management of this pandemic.”
The President defended the state of disaster, saying it had helped the government to manage the pandemic more effectively. However, he acknowledged that currently, there is a good argument to re-examine it and “look at other methods [or] instruments that can be utilised.”
“[We] are a free country, people have every right to advocate for the dropping of the state of disaster instrument,” he explained.
“We are government, [and] we’ve got to be very rational in everything that we do so we are examining that. If [we do not drop the legislation], then we will have a very rational explanation to say why we should continue with it.”
DA leads calls
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma extended the state of disaster by another month on 15 January 2022.
Prior to the extension, DA leader John Steenhuisen led calls for the government to discontinue the state of disaster, arguing that its justification no longer applies.
“The state of disaster is no longer necessary for managing the virus. On the contrary, it is doing South Africa more harm than good, by undermining our social, economic and democratic recovery,” Steenhuisen said.
“The purpose of the state of disaster and associated restrictions is to relieve pressure on the health system.
“COVID-19 hospitalisation rates are now low across the country, immunity rates (from vaccines or prior infection) are high across the population, the Omicron variant has been shown to be less severe, excess deaths have been mostly normal since September, and the health system has had ample time to prepare in the unlikely event of a new variant that evades immunity.”