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End of state of disaster welcomed but proposed amendments to health regulations a concern

FEDERATED Hospitality Association of South Africa says it requiresthe urgent removal of the PCR test requirement for unvaccinated children between the age of five and 12 years. Picture: AP.

FEDERATED Hospitality Association of South Africa says it requiresthe urgent removal of the PCR test requirement for unvaccinated children between the age of five and 12 years. Picture: AP.

Published Apr 6, 2022

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BUSINESS yesterday welcomed the immediate end of the National State of Disaster after 750 days, which also averted a possible court battle against the government.

However, concerns have remained over the proposed amendments to National Health Act regulations and some aspects that could hinder tourism in the country.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa late on Monday announced the end of the National State of Disaster, with some regulations only lapsing after 30 days to assist in limiting the spread of Covid-19.

These include the compulsory wearing of face masks indoors, restrictions on the number of people at gatherings, and provisions relating to international travellers.

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) chief executive yesterday Cas Coovadia said the lifting of the State of Disaster and the passing of the 30-day transition period would give South Africa the opportunity to accelerate its efforts to grow the economy.

“We now urge the government to demonstrate courageous leadership in taking the tough decisions to attract investment and work with business and other social partners to grow our economy,” Coovadia said.

However, Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) said it required the urgent removal of the PCR test requirement for unvaccinated children between the age of five and 12 years as this was damaging inbound family travel to South Africa as well as hindering South African families from travelling.

Fedhasa national chairperson Rosemary Anderson said the issue lay in the fact that many countries did not offer vaccinations for children between five and 12 years, and neither does South Africa.

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“This means even if parents are fully vaccinated, a family with children aged between five and 12 years has no choice but to have to pay for PCR tests, which we know in certain countries like the UK is not only onerous to obtain, but also expensive,” she said.

The government seemingly had no choice but to terminate the State of Disaster to avoid a showdown with trade union Solidarity.

Solidarity’s urgent application to end the state of disaster would have been heard in court on Monday, but was abandoned after the government conceded to Solidarity’s demands a week ago.

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Solidarity chief executive Dirk Hermann said the government realised that the state of disaster was irrational and unlawful, and wanted to avoid a court case at all costs.

“After more than two years of abnormal government and major uncertainty we are finally moving away from empty promises and feeble excuses,” he said.

Solidarity also announced that it would challenge the irrationality of the newly proposed health regulations.

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The health regulations under the National Health Act that were gazetted for public comments until April 16 are meant to ensure a mechanism to control and manage the resurgence of Covid-19 and an outbreak of any pandemic in the future.

The Regulations in the main seek to introduce few amendments to the Surveillance and Control of Notifiable Diseases and Medical Conditions, to include Covid-19 as such.

DearSA, which was also taking the government to court over the state of disaster, said they were very concerned with the government's intentions to move certain far-reaching restrictions to the National Health Act.

DearSA chief executive Gideon Joubert said doing so would effectively make these lockdown regulations permanent, and effectively allow the state of disaster to continue indefinitely.

“The government is essentially clinging to the extraordinary emergency powers they would now have to surrender,” Joubert said. “There is no disaster, hence there is no honest reason to amend regulations.”

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