Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma South African Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

South Africa is considering several non-pharmaceutical measures as it prepares to enter the next phase of the Covid pandemic, says Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Medical experts and government officials are meeting this week to discuss lifting the country’s national state of disaster and replacing it with long-term regulations to manage Covid spread.

In an address to traditional leaders on Thursday (10 March), Dlamini-Zuma said some of the proposals which have been tabled by the Department of Health include:

  • Mask mandates: The government is considering scrapping the requirement for masks in outdoor areas. However, masks would still be a requirement for gatherings taking place indoors.
  • Social distancing: Social distancing regulations are likely to remain in replace, but will be reduced to 1 metre from the current 1.5 metre requirement.
  • Gatherings: Venues will be permitted to fill 50% of their floor space. “So if an area can accommodate 10,000 people, 5,000 people will be permitted, provided they are vaccinated,” the minister said.
  • Sanitising: Dlamini-Zuma said rules around washing and sanitising will be around ‘forever’ as it forms part of good hygiene.

The government is expected to provide clarity around the updated Covid restrictions, and the status of the national state of disaster, in the coming days.

South Africa’s state of disaster is currently set to expire on 15 March 2022. This would make it 24 months since it was first declared in March 2020.

While the national state of disaster was initially set to lapse on 15 June 2020, the act provides that it can be extended by the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister by notice in the gazette for one month at a time before it lapses.

The government has relied on the regulations to introduce and give effect to lockdown restrictions, which it has used to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ramaphosa has previously indicated that the latest state of disaster extension will be the last, with the government now expected to introduce more permanent long-term regulations to help manage Covid in the country.

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