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Ramaphosa: country is ready to enter a new phase in management of the pandemic

President Ramaphosa stressed that the end of the National State of Disaster does not mean the end of the pandemic.

President Ramaphosa stressed that the end of the National State of Disaster does not mean the end of the pandemic.

Published Mar 23, 2022

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CAPE TOWN - President Cyril Ramaphosa last night announced intentions to lift the National State of Disaster as soon as public comment on the health regulations published by the Minister of Health has been completed, adding that with these changes, almost all restrictions on social and economic activity will have been lifted.

He stressed that the end of the National State of Disaster does not mean the end of the pandemic.

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Two years after the restrictions were first announced, Ramaphosa said he country was now at a watershed moment.

He said the country was now ready to enter a new phase in management of the pandemic.

“After four waves of infection, fewer people are becoming severely ill and requiring hospitalisation. There are far fewer deaths than before,” he said in his address to the nation last night.

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Ramaphosa said the health services have learnt to manage the disease more effectively.

“We have gotten used to wearing masks and washing our hands regularly. Most importantly, 48 percent of all adults have received at least one vaccine dose.”

He also said while the pandemic is not yet over, many parts of daily life were returning to normal.

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He said due to the changing nature of the pandemic, the government intended to lift the National State of Disaster as soon as public comment on the health regulations published by the Minister of health has been completed.

“These regulations, when finalised, will replace the State of Disaster regulations as the legal instrument that we use to manage the pandemic.”

He invited citizens to make comments on the draft regulations before April 16.

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“What should be clear is that the end of the National State of Disaster does not mean the end of the pandemic. It just means that we are changing the way we manage the pandemic, and we will be relying on health regulations rather than disaster management regulations.”

Ramaphosa also said since the country was on adjusted alert level one since October, they were now able to ease the restrictions further.

He announced easing of Covid-19 restrictions with effect from Wednesday once the new regulations are gazetted.

This after the Presidential Co-ordinating Council held a meeting with premiers, mayors of all metros, ministers and deputy ministers, Salga and traditional leaders earlier in the day.

Ramaphosa said both indoor and outdoor venues could now take up to 50% of their capacity provided that the criteria for entrance are proof of vaccination or a Covid-19 test not older than 72 hours.

“But where there is no provision for proof of vaccination or a Covid test, then the current upper limit will remain of 1000 people indoors and 2000 people outdoors.”

He said the change to the restrictions on gatherings would be of great benefit to the sporting, cultural, entertainment and events industries in particular.

“This means that if we are vaccinated or have recently tested negative, we will be able to return to watching sports in stadiums and attending music concerts, theatre performances, conferences and other events,” the president said.

However, he said the maximum number of people permitted at a funeral would increase from 100 to 200.

Night vigils, after-funeral gatherings and “after-tears” gatherings are not allowed.

Ramaphosa also announced changes to the regulation on the wearing of masks.

“As before, it is mandatory to wear a cloth mask or similar covering over the nose and mouth when in public indoor spaces.

“However, a mask is not required when outdoors. This means that we still need to wear masks when in shops, malls, offices, factories, taxies, buses, trains or any other indoor public space,” he said.

Ramaphosa said the regulations on social distancing were also being changed, requiring that a space of one metre was maintained between persons in all settings except schools.

He also announced changes to the regulations on international travel.

“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.”

He said with the changes he announced, almost all restrictions on social and economic activity would have been lifted.

“Going forward, our most important defences against the disease are, firstly, vaccination and, secondly, the observance of basic measures, such as wearing masks indoors.

“The further easing of the remaining restrictions will require that we increase the rate of vaccination among South Africans.”

He said the vaccine has been shown to significantly reduce severe illness.

“Vaccination is likely to reduce transmission at home and at places like schools and universities where there is close contact.

“Therefore, while we welcome the fact that more than 68% of people older than 60 years have been vaccinated, we are concerned that only 35% of people between 18 and 35 years have been vaccinated.

“It is vitally important that we get many more of our people between 18 and 35 years vaccinated, and that is why we launched the #KeReady campaign last month.”

Cape Times

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