Growing concerns over South Africa’s new Covid rules – as Thursday deadline approaches

The opposition Democratic Alliance has called on the government to provide clarity on the current state of South Africa’s draft Covid regulations.

Public comment for the Draft Health Regulations closed on 24 April 2022, which gave health minister Dr Joe Phaahla and his department only 12 days to process and analyze more than 300,000 submissions before Thursday’s deadline (5 May), the party said.

“As yet, the minister has provided no feedback on various requests and suggestions to ensure transparency and oversight,” said the party’s Michele Clarke.

“There is currently no confirmation that an audit has been done to indicate whether submissions lost due to a technical glitch were recovered and included. The Department has also not provided the DA with a copy of all submissions made, nor provided a breakdown of their analysis method.”

Clarke noted that the government has historically used public participation as a ‘block-ticking exercise’ and disregarded submissions by experts and the general public to push their agenda.

“The DA will not allow this to happen again. Government cannot continue to treat South Africans as the enemy. We need to know the status of the draft health regulations. The country has suffered enough the past two years and deserves to know what lies ahead.”

Concerns around powers 

Concerns have been raised about the broad powers the draft regulations will give the government in dealing with Covid and other diseases.

The draft bill states that: “Any person with a confirmed or suspected case of a notifiable medical condition may not refuse to submit to mandatory prophylaxis, treatment, isolation or quarantine in order to prevent transmission”.

In addition, those who have a confirmed case of a notifiable medical condition may not refuse to have a blood sample taken or be taken for quarantine.

If a person refuses to quarantine or go to a site of isolation or quarantine facility as directed, a court order must be obtained to compel such a person to quarantine.

Another notable change sought through the draft bill relates to face masks and social distancing. The draft bill proposes to make face masks mandatory in public spaces, shops, certain workplaces and in public transit as part of the general measures instituted to contain the spread of notifiable medical conditions that can spread through droplets or aerosol.

Employers will also be required to take special measures for employees with comorbidities to prevent them from being infected by a virus.

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