Permanent mask wearing social distancing new covid laws

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – AUGUST 20: New Health Minister Joe Phaahla and Western Cape Health minister Nomafrench Mbombo on a site visit at the Grand West on August 20, 2021 in Cape Town, South Africa – Gallo Images / Brenton Geach

COVID-19: Phaahla hits back at ‘armchair critics’ over health regulations

Government has been widely criticised for the new COVID-19-related restrictions which were recently gazetted

Permanent mask wearing social distancing new covid laws

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – AUGUST 20: New Health Minister Joe Phaahla and Western Cape Health minister Nomafrench Mbombo on a site visit at the Grand West on August 20, 2021 in Cape Town, South Africa – Gallo Images / Brenton Geach

The Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla says government doesn’t take pleasure in having to implement COVID-19-related restrictions as it has had to the past two years, amid criticism over the latest measures.

Phaahla made the comments when he tabled the department’s budget vote before a mini-plenary of the National Assembly on Tuesday, 10 May.

The minister recently gazetted new COVID-19 regulations under the National Health Act to replace the country’s transitional measures. The restrictions include mandatory mask-wearing in public spaces and limits on gatherings. Some health experts have criticised the new measures, saying they are not fit for purpose.

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THE HEALTH MINISTER STANDS BY NEW REGULATIONS

Wits University’s Professor Shabir Madhi says the new restrictions are full of contradictions and has accused government of ignoring the advice of its own Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19. But the health minister maintains they are on the right track.

“We wish to assure all South Africans, that as government we get no joy in inconveniencing you from time to time with restrictions. We say sorry where we have wronged you but please be assured that all interventions were meant and are still meant for all of us to avoid the severe impact of COVID-19. We completely disagree with armchair critics who argue that we should drop all public health measures and just let the virus spread at will and only worry about whether hospitals are full or not,” he said.

Phaahla acknowledges that the pandemic has had its challenges, but says as government, they have had some positive lessons during this period.

“We have learned to work as government from local to national, and bring in skills and expertise from our entities. We have learnt on how to work together with private sector, from securing of commodities such as [personal protective equipment] PPEs, diagnostics, therapeutics and even more securing and administering vaccines. We have learned how to work with our scientists to guide our intervention, not always easy because scientists themselves do not always agree as is the case in other aspects of life,”

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla