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South Africa: Health Minister Phaahla Recommends Removal Of COVID-19 Measures

South Africa’s Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla has recommended the removal of Regulations on the Critical Control Measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. In a letter seen by Pindula News, Phaahla cites declining COVID-19 cases and deaths as the motivation behind the recommendation. He said:

Dear Colleagues

Repeal of the Regulations on the Critical Control Measures to contain the spread of COVID-19

As you will recall, we met on the 3rd of May 2022 to discuss the promulgation of the amended limited health regulations to manage the potential 5th wave outside the National State of Disaster. These regulations were then promulgated on 4 May 2022. They were intended purely as a temporary stop-gap measure to enable the country to deal with the impending “fifth wave” of Covid-19 infections.

These were to deal with three critical control measures to contain the spread of COVID-19:

❑ wearing of face masks at indoors public gatherings (Regulation 16A);

❑ gatherings (Regulation 16B); and

❑ travel requirements for entry to South Africa (Regulation 16C)

At the time of their promulgation, the status of the epidemic was very concerning and unpredictable, and the Department needed to have some mitigating measures in place.

The analysis of the epidemic at that time was as follows:

❑ Reported cases in mid-April were less than 250 cases a day;

❑ By 24 April the figure had risen to 3097;

❑ By 1 May the figure had risen to 4693 (1777.2% increase in reported infections in the space of two weeks preceding the decision to activate the regulations on promulgation);

❑ By 15 May 2022 the figure had increased to 7685 reported cases — a 2974°A, increase;

❑ Variant had not changed (five sub-variants of Omicron circulating)

  • Did not know if one or more of these variants was virulent enough to cause a new wave.
  • Did not yet have information on immune escape of B.4 and B.5 which were taking over from the earlier sub-variants; and

❑ The question was whether this was a result of behaviour change with the end of the State of Disaster or if a sub-variant was for the first time responsible for a wave/spike. (Turns out it was the latter)

We have been monitoring the epidemic working with NICD and the current epidemiological analysis, points towards lower infection rates and that the country has exited the recent spike (“5th wave”), which the current limited regulations were promulgated to mitigate, and as at mid-June 2022 the critical indicators are as follows:

❑ There is a decline in the number of reported cases;

❑ There is a decline in the hospitalizations;

❑ There is a decline in the effective reproductive rate of the virus (Less than 0.7%);

❑ There is a decline in the positivity rate though the number of tests done is also low; and 

❑ There is also a decline in the reported deaths.

Based on the above, the National Department of Health consulted the NCCC this morning (20 June 2022) and proposed the following:

❑ Regulation 16A (mask-wearing) no longer needs to be in place at the present moment;

❑ Regulation 16B (gatherings) no longer needs to be in place at the present moment; and

❑ Regulation 16C (entry limitations) no longer needs to be in place at the present moment. 

The recommendations will be discussed with the Cabinet in the next 48-72 hours.

I, therefore, request that you as MECs of Health advise if you are in support or have any concerns regarding the repeal of these regulations as gazetted on the 4° May 2022 and feel free to offer any comments on this proposed repeal. Please send you responses to Ms Sonto Vilane (sonto.vilane@health.gov.za) copying dg@health.gov.za by midday 21 June 2020.

Kind Regards

Dr J Phaahla, MP Minister of Health 

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