The national state of disaster will be lifted once public comment on the health regulations have been finalised.
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation earlier today and stated that an adjusted response to the Covid-19 pandemic helped to slow the spread of the virus.
He said for two years, the pandemic shaped everyone’s lives. South Africa recorded more than 3.7 million cases and nearly 100 000 Covid-19 deaths.
“It has shattered many livelihoods and devastated the economy, leading to the closure of many businesses and the loss of some two million jobs.”
Slowdown in infections
The president said that after four waves of infection, fewer people are becoming severely ill and requiring hospitalisation. The death rate has also dropped.
This is mainly because between 60 to 80% of the population has some form of immunity to the virus, either from previous infection or vaccination, he said.
As a result, health services have learnt to manage the disease more effectively.
However, he praised South Africans for being caring and compassionate and coming to each other’s assistance in the hour of their greatest need.
The vaccine has shown to significantly reduce severe illness. Statistics from health facilities clearly show that people who are not vaccinated stand a higher chance of being hospitalised or dying from Covid-19, he said.
Currently, more than 68% of people older than 60 years have been vaccinated.
However, there is a concern that only 35% of people between 18 and 35 years have been vaccinated.
The #KeReady campaign was launched last month to encourage people in this age group to vaccinate.
National state of disaster
Due to the changing nature of the pandemic, and the progress that has been made through collective efforts, President Ramaphosa said the intention is to lift the state of disaster as soon as the proposed regulations published recently by Health Minister Joe Phaahla have been finalised.
These regulations will replace the state of disaster regulations as the legal instrument to manage the pandemic.
The public is invited to make comments on the draft regulations before April 16.
However, the President stressed: “What should be clear is that the end of the national state of disaster does not mean the end of the pandemic.”
Easing of restrictions
Since October last year, the country has been at Adjusted Alert Level 1, which has meant that many normal activities have resumed, provided health guidelines are followed.
Most of the restrictions on economic activity have been lifted.
However, restrictions will now be eased further.
Indoor and outdoor venues can now take up to 50% of their capacity provided that proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test not older than 72 hours are provided by participants.
If there is no provision for proof of vaccination or a Covid test, then the current upper limit will remain – 1 000 people indoors and 2 000 people outdoors.
The maximum number of people permitted at a funeral has been increased from 100 to 200. As before, night vigils, after-funeral gatherings and ‘after-tears’ gatherings are not allowed.
Wearing of masks
A mask is not required to be worn when outdoors. However, one still need to wear masks when in shops, malls, offices, factories, taxis, buses, trains or any other indoor public space.
The president explained that there is no need to wear masks when walking on the street or in an open space, when exercising outdoors or when attending an outdoor gathering.
A space of one metre must be maintained between people in all settings except schools.
Travellers entering South Africa will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours.
All unvaccinated travellers entering the country who want to be vaccinated will be offered a vaccination.
These measures will take effect from tomorrow, once the new regulations are gazetted.