OPINION

Don’t be fooled by govt ending the state of disaster

Reiner Duvenage |

08 April 2022

Reiner Duvenage says proposed health regulations show the govt unwilling to relinquish its new powers

Don’t be fooled by government ending the state of disaster

7 April 2022

After the threat of impending legal action from AfriForum and other organisations, the government backtracked on its intention to further extend the state of disaster. This after Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s announcement that the government was lifting the state of disaster by 5 April 2022. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that this is an attempt to mask the cloak-and-dagger tactics the government is employing to cling on to the unbridled power vested in it under the Disaster Management Act during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Doubts about the government’s true intentions immediately raised concern when a series of proposed amendments to regulations in terms of the National Health Act 61 of 2003 and the International Health Regulations Act 28 of 1974 were issued between 15 and 23 March 2022.

The new health regulations effectively mean that even after the state of disaster was ended on 5 April, most of the COVID-19 restrictions will temporarily remain in place. These regulations will then be permanently implemented as soon as the amendments to the regulations in terms of the National Health Act come into force.

Thus, the publication of the Adjusted Alert Level 1 Regulations on 22 March 2022 and the ending of the state of disaster, which ostensibly indicated a gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions and a movement towards life after the pandemic, are nothing but a smokescreen for COVID-19 measures to be permanently enacted into law.

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The proposed regulations entail that management of the COVID-19 pandemic will fall within the purview of the Minister of Health and not the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs as stipulated in the Disaster Management Act. According to the proposed regulation 15A of the regulations published on 15 March, any person confirmed or suspected of having contracted a “notifiable medical condition” or persons who have been in contact with a carrier of a notifiable medical condition may not refuse to do the following:

“i) submit to a medical examination, including, but not limited to, the taking of any bodily sample which may be authorised by any law;

(ii) be admitted to a health establishment, quarantine or isolation site; or

(iii) submit to mandatory prophylaxis, treatment, isolation or quarantine, in order to prevent transmission.”