President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday said the government would continue paying out a R350 special grant for the unemployed while the wearing of face masks indoors would remain mandatory as he ended 750 days of the national state of disaster imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The state of disaster has been in effect since March 2020 when South Africa recorded its first cases of the virus which swept across the globe.
In a national address, Ramaphosa said the Disaster Management Act, which gave the legal basis for the state of disaster, also provided for the disbursement of the Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (Ters) for workers affected by the lockdowns triggered by the pandemic.
The government reported last year that the Ters provision supported 5.3-million workers to the collective tune of R59.2-billion, employed by 267 428 businesses affected by the economic restrictions that came with the health crisis.
“All these measures were necessary not only to respond to the devastating effects of the pandemic on human health, but also to limit the great cost to society and the economy,” Ramaphosa said in the address made from his Union Buildings offices in Pretoria.
“However, in the context of a free and democratic society, the additional powers of the state of disaster are temporary and limited. They should be maintained only as long as they are necessary.” The restrictions would be lifted from midnight on Monday, the president added.
Ramaphosa said from here on, the pandemic would be managed by the proposed National Health Act, the draft regulations of which have been published for comment until 16 April, whereafter the government is expected to promulgate it into law.
He said there would be a transitional 30-day period during which some regulations from the state of disaster would remain in place, including the requirement for face masks indoors, as well as a 50% crowd capacity restriction for public events where the requirement of a vaccination certificate or Covid-19 test not older than 72 hours is required. Where no vaccine certification is required, gatherings will be capped at a thousand.
The R350 special grant for unemployed citizens will continue until the department of social development finalises regulations to continue the payments beyond the transitional 30 days, Ramaphosa said.
He said the government was lifting the state of disaster due to the low Covid-19 hospitalisation and death rates now being recorded in South Africa, noting that out of more than 180 000 hospital beds in the country, only about 1 805 were occupied by Covid-19 patients.
Ramaphosa encouraged more people to get vaccinated and boost the continuing fight against the pandemic, saying the government had a scheme in place to compensate any one whose health was adversely affected by getting the 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. The scheme will only be terminated once the scheme has achieved its purpose,” the president said.