Lunga Simelane
2 minute read
27 Jan 2022
4:15 am

Do not end the state of disaster yet, says top doctor

Lunga Simelane

Next month will be two years since President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the state of disaster under the Disaster Management Act (DMA), which freed up the resources for government to respond to the pandemic.

Empty streets in Cape Town during the Covid-19 lockdown. Picture: Gallo Images. File picture.

While many people want an end to the national state of disaster as they believe regulations are creating more disruptions than the actual pandemic, it may not be a good idea.

Next month will be two years since President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the state of disaster under the Disaster Management Act (DMA), which freed up the resources for government to respond to the pandemic.

South African Medical Association (Sama) chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee said the end of the national state of disaster would be a “huge problem”, as certain provisions to the regulations, specifically the Health Act, were not in place.

“It becomes very difficult for the minister of health to do compulsory mandating,” she said.

Coetzee said the country was not out of the pandemic yet.

“It is still too early to say whether omicron or any other variants would become endemic. That can only be said in about six to eight months,” she said.

According to Coetzee, it was highly unlikely that restrictions such as maskwearing would just be lifted. She said to change regulatory measures, such as the compulsoriness of wearing masks, requires of the minister to wait for three months, as input was necessary.

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Coetzee noted that the country would not be able to handle a fifth wave due to the risks.

“If something [catastophic] would happen and we are out of the national state of disaster, it would mean the minister would be required to re-enforce it [the state of disaster],” she said.

“It is easier for the minister to bring it back if regulations are already in place.”

Department of health spokesperson Foster Mohale said the DMA and its regulations were not only about health.

“There are other government departments who are able to provide services through DMA regulations,” he said.

“They, too, need to ensure their regulations are able to do what they need to do.”

Mohale says the department will ensure necessary regulations are in place to manage any eventuality and some regulations at their disposal required strengthening.

Meanwhile, health sciences lecturers from the University of Witwatersrand said the government needed to set up a permanent pandemic preparedness body.