Durban - Forget the small distraction caused by the Health Department’s bungle in announcing the new Covid-19 regulations.
Yes, Health Minister Joe Phaahla first opposed legal action accusing him of limiting the time for people to comment on new health regulations, before doing a backflip and extending the comment period by three months to July.
Yes, Phaahla first announced that children would not have to wear masks, before backtracking and ordering that pupils should cover up in class.
However, the bigger, more important picture is that a fifth wave of infections is well under way, with, as usual, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng leading the charge.
More than 6 000 infections on Wednesday and nearly 10 000 on Thursday leave no room for doubt: this is an emergency which requires immediate intervention to prevent wider infection and a recurrence of the conditions which led to the draconian ‒ but necessary ‒ lockdown initiated in early 2020.
And the regulations announced are not onerous.
They include wearing masks indoors and in enclosed spaces, including on public transport.
Accommodation establishments can hire out rooms to 100% of capacity, but masks are to be worn in common areas.
And masks are to be worn in schools.
With more than a third (34.2%) of positive tests in the 10- to 14-year-old age group, this is a common-sense approach, as are the other regulations, including those which require proof of vaccination or negative tests.
People can still move around and mingle, and business can operate ‒ as long as sensible precautions are taken.
With the flu season fast approaching, it is essential that the country gets a handle on the situation fast, before infections spiral out of control.
This is not the time to bicker over the period allocated for public comment concerning the regulations.
This is a time for the country to unite in a common effort to fight infection, including encouraging vaccination, the taking of booster shots to increase immunity, and adherence to preventive measures.
The Independent on Saturday