/ 6 April 2022

Covid-19 hospital admissions low but virus still a threat

Covid 19 Emergency Beds At Nasrec
Up to one in five people can get long COVID — a condition in which someone keeps on feeling ill for months after their initial symptoms have cleared up. (Paul Botes)

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has warned that the government will not hesitate to apply the National State of Disaster Act to impose Covid-19-related restrictions, should infection rates flare up again.

Dlamini-Zuma was speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday when she and Health Minister Joe Phaahla outlined details of the restrictions that will remain in place after President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday ended a two-year national state of disaster in response to the global pandemic.

“If the pandemic were to escalate and reach a level where it becomes a disaster, the Disaster Management Act can still be used,” Dlamini-Zuma said.

Phaahla said that despite the falling rate of Covid-19 hospital admissions and deaths, precautionary measures could not be dropped completely because the virus remained a threat.

“Hospital admissions, on average due to Covid-19, have been just below 2 000 consistently for the past two weeks, with between 200 and 300 people admitted to ICU [intensive care unit],” he said.

Echoing Ramaphosa’s remarks the previous day, Dlamini-Zuma said some measures drawn from the National Disaster Act would stay in place for 30 days for “post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation”.

“We will still continue wearing masks for another 30 days indoors, yet outdoors it is not necessary. If a gathering is more than 1 000 people, attendees must provide proof of vaccination or a 72-hour PCR test,” she said.

Other measures put in place to mitigate the negative economic effects of the pandemic will remain beyond the 30 days, including the R350 social relief of distress grant and the requirement for proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test no older than 72 hours for international travellers.

Dlamini-Zuma said the Covid-19 vaccine injury no-fault compensation scheme for those who suffered adverse reactions from being inoculated would continue, saying: “As long as people are being vaccinated they should be able to apply for no-fault compensation.”

Phaahla said daily infections had stabilised, coming in at just above 700 on Monday.

The health minister invited the public to make comments before the government finalised amendments to the National Health Act.

“Because the law requires there must be public comment, those comments will be taken into consideration, which will help the final regulations of the amendments. These are amendments, not new regulations under the National Health Act,” he said.

The public can email comments to the department on [email protected] before 16 April.