A guide to the new Covid rules, what you can and can’t do
Despite the National State of Disaster in South Africa coming to an end at midnight on Monday, certain coronavirus regulations and policies will remain in place for the next 30 days. Daily Maverick has put together a guide to help readers with the dos and don’ts of the post-disaster transition.
The National State of Disaster in South Africa was lifted by President Cyril Ramaphosa as of midnight on Monday, but certain elements of the regulations will remain in place for 30 days to ensure post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation. These transitional provisions are intended to ensure essential public health precautions and the uninterrupted continuation of necessary services until new National Health Act regulations for managing the pandemic come into effect.
“What this means is that all regulations and directions made in terms of the Disaster Management Act following the declaration of the National State of Disaster in response to Covid-19 are repealed with effect from midnight [on Monday], with the exception of a few transitional measures,” clarified Ramaphosa during his statement on the termination of the National State of Disaster.
In light of current confusion around which regulations remain in place, Maverick Citizen has put together a guide to answer readers’ questions on the post-disaster transition.
Do I need to wear a mask?
A face mask is not required when outdoors. However, people still need to wear masks in indoor public spaces, with the exception of children under six years old.
“This is necessary to prevent transmission in high-risk places, especially while many people remain unvaccinated,” said Ramaphosa.
As such, no person may use or operate any form of public transport, nor enter any building or premises in which members of the public obtain goods or services, without a mask, according to a government notice issued by the Department of Cooperative Governance on 4 April. So you cannot go shopping without a mask.
In a Q&A session with journalists on Tuesday Nkosazana the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Dlamini-Zuma said that it was ‘in our own hands’ to follow the regulations individually and collectively, as the State of Disaster had passed. This means there is no criminal enforcement anymore, as Ramaphosa also said there was no longer ‘criminalisation of non-adherence to these rules’, but people should do it out of a will to avoid the situation getting worse in future.
Do I need to limit my gatherings?
The existing restrictions on gatherings will continue over the next month.
“This means that both indoor and outdoor venues can take up to 50% of their capacity without any maximum limit, provided that proof of vaccination or a Covid test not older than 72 hours is required for entrance to the venue,” said Ramaphosa.
Gatherings can take place without those attending providing proof of vaccination or a Covid-19 test not older than 72 hours. However, in these cases, the upper limit on the number of people who can attend is 1,000 for indoors and 2,000 for outdoors, said Ramaphosa.
If a venue is too small to hold the prescribed number of people while maintaining a distance of one metre between each person, then no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used, according to the government notice.
These regulations apply to all gatherings, including religious, social, political and cultural events. They further apply to all sporting activities, both professional and non-professional.
How will international travel be affected?
Existing regulations around international travel will remain in place, meaning that all travellers entering South Africa will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours.
“If a traveller does not submit a vaccine certificate or proof of a negative Covid-19 test, they will be required to do an antigen test on arrival,” said Ramaphosa. “If they test positive for Covid-19, they will need to isolate for 10 days.”
Outbound travellers from South Africa must comply with the requirements of the country to which they are travelling.
Will the special R350 Covid-19 grant continue?
The special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant will continue over the next month. This will allow the Department of Social Development to finalise regulations that will allow the payment of the grant to continue, according to Ramaphosa.
In a media briefing on Tuesday, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, said:
“… because of the unemployment that has been exacerbated by Covid, there was a grant of R350 that’s being paid. That grant will continue, so we’re just transitioning that through these transitional arrangements for 30 days, but beyond that, it will continue through other legislation.”
Will I be able to extend the validity of my driver’s licence?
The conditions allowing the extension of the validity of learner’s licences, driving licence cards, licence discs, professional driving permits and motor vehicle registrations will remain in place, according to Ramaphosa.
Dlamini-Zuma ascribed this transitional measure to the large backlog that exists for the renewal of driver’s licences, adding that by the end of the 30-day period, normal procedures will hopefully be followed.
Will I be compensated for vaccine-related injury?
The Covid-19 Vaccine Injury No-Fault Compensation Scheme, which was launched in April 2021, will continue, said Ramaphosa. The scheme provides swift access to compensation for people who suffer serious injuries as a result of receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.
“The Covid-19 Vaccine Injury No-Fault Compensation Scheme, which is administered by the Department of Health, will continue after the National State of Disaster ends,” said Ramaphosa. “The scheme will only be terminated once it has achieved its purpose.”
So, what has changed?
With the end of the National State of Disaster comes an end to the Coronavirus Alert Levels. Among the Covid-19 regulations that fell away at midnight on Thursday were those concerning:
- Isolation of persons;
- Schools and access to old age homes;
- Public transport;
- Initiation practices;
- Cargo transportation; and
- Criminalisation of non-adherence to these rules.
“The few transitional measures that remain are limited in scope and allow almost all social and economic activity to resume as normal,” said Ramaphosa. “They are essential to reduce the risk of a further Covid-19 wave and further disaster.”
Speaking at Tuesday’s media briefing, both Dlamini-Zuma and Minister of Health Joe Phaahla emphasised that the end of the National State of Disaster does not mean the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. Rather, it means that the situation must now be managed by normal legislation.
The draft National Health Act regulations for the pandemic have been published for public comment. The opportunity for comment will close on 16 April, after which the new regulations will be finalised, according to Phaahla. DM/MC
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