Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist

Wearing masks in schools now optional for pupils and educators, says Motshekga

The minister says her department supports the repealing of the remaining Covid-19 health regulations.

Following government’s decision to lift all the remaining Covid-19 regulations, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says the wearing of masks in public schools will now be optional for pupils and educators.

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla on Wednesday signed a note in the government Gazette ending Covid-19 restrictions related to the wearing of masks indoors, limitations on gatherings and checks at the country’s ports of entry.

The decision to repeal the measures followed the decline in reported daily Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths, as well as, increased natural immunity in the population.

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Motshekga on Thursday said the Department of Basic Education supported the repealing of the remaining health regulations, however, pupils and staff that choose to wear face masks at school can continue to do so.

“In line with this decision to repeal the regulations, wearing of face masks by learners in classrooms, and indoor gatherings is no longer a requirement.

“Those learners and staff who wish to continue to wear face a mask in schools will be allowed to exercise this option,” Motshekga said in a statement.

The minister added that her department continued to support the vaccination of all pupils aged from 12 years, with parental consent.

1.9 million children vaccinated

Speaking at a media briefing in Pretoria on Thursday, Phaahla said, as of 22 June 2022, 36,700 million vaccine doses were administered to 20.09 million adults and 1.9 million children between the ages of 12-17 years.

This meant that an average of 50.48% (about 22 million) of South Africans had at least received one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

“We applaud the big turnout of the 60+ age group who are at risk with a 70.5% turnout and the next high risk of 50-59 years with a 66.17% turnout.

“We believe that the big turnout of the 50+ age group contributed hugely to the reduced severity of hospitalisation and mortality witnessed in the fourth wave and persistent up to today,” Phaahla said.

The Free State was the best performing province in terms of the number of people jabbed, at 60% of coverage of their adult population.

The Western Cape was at 57.37%, Limpopo 57%, Eastern Cape 54.53% and the Northern Cape at 51.45%.

Gauteng province had 5.4 million individuals vaccinated at 47.8% together with KwaZulu-Natal. The North West and Mpumalanga reached coverage of below 50%.

Phaahla cautioned that the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions did not mean that the virus no longer existed.

“It is still in our midst, we are just stronger than before, especially with vaccination and we urge those not yet vaccinated to come forward and those due for boosters to also come forward.

“The vaccination program will remain and is now being integrated into normal health services.”

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