‘The war is far from over’ – that’s the phrase that stuck out like a sore thumb in Health Minister Joe Phaahla’s SONA Debate speech on Monday, and the Health Minister has shifted towards a cautious stance when it comes to ending South Africa’s State of Disaster legislation.
A change in tone for lifting the State of Disaster
Phaahla kept a cool head when Omicron ripped through Mzansi at the end of 2021. No further restrictions were introduced, and healthcare systems coped easily with the new variant.
However, lifting the State of Disaster entirely seems to be a different kettle of fish for the minister. He is urging utmost caution when it comes to dropping the emergency framework, which is coming up for its two-year anniversary.
What requirements must be met to end the State of Disaster?
Both Phaahla and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma have expressed their minor concerns about ending every single lockdown regulation left in the country – and they want the following requirements met before the State of Disaster disappears.
Other measures to help SA control virus must be drafted and published in the National Health Act.
Guidance to ‘handle the next variant or COVID wave’ must be in place before a declaration is made.
As discussed by Dlamini-Zuma on Monday, vaccination must continue in Mzansi.
Game over? Not quite yet…
The State of Disaster is set to end on 15 March – exactly one month from today. Barring a devastating change in fortunes, South Africa remains on course to cast away the shackles of lockdown once and for all.
However, the Health Minister is in no mood to declare victory over the virus…
“Everyone is eager for this pandemic to come to an end. The reality, however, is that while we have learned more about the virus, we have more weapons and the virus is seemingly getting weaker, the war is far from over. It is our intention to end the national State of Disaster as soon as we have finalised other measures under the National Health Act.”
“Other legislation will be used to help try and contain the pandemic. A rash and precipitate declaration of victory can lead to severe repercussions. We want to make sure that as we exit the disaster, we have enough cautions and measures to handle the next variant and the next wave.”