Up to the society to ensure State of Disaster is not reinstated, warns Dlamini-Zuma

You are going to have to keep your favourite mask close even after the 30 days announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa if the draft health regulations are approved, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma warned yesterday, because it was up to the society to ensure the state of disaster was not reinstated.

Many South Africans were left with mixed emotions following Ramaphosa’s announcement to end the national state of disaster, more than two years after it was first declared in response to managing Covid pandemic.

According to 27-year-old Johannesburg resident Koketso Botlholo, it made no difference to him, because government had kept most of the regulations which came with the national state of disaster in 2020.

“I don’t understand what the president’s announcement entails, because I don’t see a difference in the government ending it or if we continue with it,” he said.

“Before the state of disaster, we were not obligated to wear masks, and when they say the disaster is
done, then they should remove every law and rule accompanied by the so-called state of disaster.”

Botlholo also said if they were cancelling the national state of disaster, if the government reduced the regulations and kept the rest, then it was “pretty useless, and there is no difference”.

“The day we [can] stop sanitising, wearing masks, checking temperatures, that’s when I’ll say ‘yes the national state of disaster is done and dusted’,” he added.

However, another citizen, Gorden Selepe, welcomed the end of the state of disaster and said it would allow government to focus on other socioeconomic issues.

“Well for me it’s not a train smash because people have shown they can follow rules, and it was only a matter of time, considering this was actually costing government a lot of time and money,” he said.

Dlamini-Zuma said while the current environment allowed for the relaxation of some regulations, if the fifth wave hit the country with a surge in deaths and hospitalisations, the government would bring back the national state of disaster.

She also said in its place, the country will be in a 30-day transitional post-disaster management period that would be legislated for “temporary use”.

“The message is, let’s all be responsible, let’s protect ourselves and others because nobody is safe until we’re all safe. So let’s respect the regulations individually and collectively,” she told the media yesterday.

As of Monday evening, the pandemic was being managed in terms of the National Health Act, while the draft health regulations had been published for public comment – which closes on 16 April, after which the future of masks would be determined.

The minister said, however, that Cabinet could revert back to the national state of disaster should the Covid pandemic escalate again and reach a level where it became a disaster.

“We may avoid a situation where this pandemic becomes a disaster again. That is what we’re hoping for,” she said.

“In the event that it becomes a disaster, we will have to revert back to the Act.”

Joburg resident Mbali Jolaoso said the president’s announcement meant it was now every man for himself, as the government could not control people’s behaviour and how they reacted to the pandemic.

“It’s a really tricky situation, more like a touch-and-go moment, but I think at this point we’d rather just wait and see how the fifth wave pans out, which will determine if it was a good move or not,” she said.

“We’ll never know if this is right or wrong. Until the fifth wave starts, what we have to do is stay safe, vaccinate like the government suggests and hope for the best.”

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