SA could return to the National State of Disaster if COVID-19 cases start to rise rapidly: Government

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Government has warned that the country could still return to the State of National Disaster if the COVID-19 cases start to rise rapidly.

All lockdown regulations with the exception of the wearing of masks have been done away with.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma briefed the media on Tuesday following President Cyril Ramahosa’s announcement of the end on the National Disaster Act on Tuesday night.

Ministers brief media to further unpack the address to the nation by President Cyril Ramaphosa

Following the end of the National State of Disaster, government says the country is still not yet out of the woods. With the country now officially out of the fourth wave and the infections rate stabilizing, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla says the situation is now stable to relax the regulations and phase out the National State of Disaster.

“The situation is fairly stable currently. The infection numbers fluctuate between 600 and on some days over 1500 and slightly above. Positivity has been fluctuating between 5%. Yesterday, and on some days when the numbers are higher, you find some days up to 7% maximum 8% there has been stability in terms of the severity of the illness even when the numbers have been high,” says Phaahla.

Phaahla says on average, the  number of people who have recently been admitted in hospital due to COVID-19 is just below 2000.

“But now, we have gone below 2000 of admissions in hospitals and when we look at those in ICU, we have for a long time between 203 and currently are just below 200 of those in the ICUs,” adds Phaahla.

But Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has warned South Africans not lower irresponsibly lower the guard insisting the country could still return to hard lockdown.

Dlamini-Zuma says, “the Disaster Management Act will only continue for the next 30 days after that it will lapse and we will then go back to normal but it the pandemic were to escalate and reach a level where it becomes a disaster, the Disaster Management Act can still be utilised. So, if we look after ourselves, wear masks and wash our hands and all that we may avoid a situation where this pandemic becomes a disaster again. But in the event it becomes a disaster we will have to bring back the Disaster Management Act .so it’s in our hands but we will watching and Health will be advising us.”

Professor Salim Abdool Karim says face masks must still be used indoors

And whether it was not wise to wait a bit before ending the National State of Disaster, scientists warned of a possible fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hitting South Africa as the country moves to its winter season, Dlamini-Zuma says the Act doesn’t allow them to react in anticipation.

“The Disaster Management Act only kicks when there is a disaster. It doesn’t kick-in in anticipation of a disaster so that we can now say we are in a state of a disaster when we are not. The definition is very clear, but as I said if the fifth wave, is such that a pandemic becomes a disaster then the Disaster Management Act will come and the National State of Disaster will come back. But we can’t keep it because somebody says there must be a fifth wave when the fifth wave comes, we will also see whether the fifth wave is such that it becomes a disaster. If not, then we won’t bring back and the normal regulations from Health and other departments will manage the situation,” says Dlamini-Zuma.

And on the temperature screening registers in workplaces Phaahla cautiously says all this falls away.

“The question on temperatures at work place it’s no more a requirement but in gatherings and in workplaces it’s still something which one would not say people who are hosting gatherings and in workplaces need to necessarily throw away,” says Phaahla.

Meanwhile, the current measures introduced under the National State of Disaster like the wearing of masks, restrictions on gatherings and international arrivals will only run for 30 days with relevant departments will handle the situation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation: