South Africa exits National State of Disaster
Cabinet has decided to end the National State of Disaster with effect from midnight on Monday, 4 April 2022, with the exception of a few transitional regulations remaining in place. “Since the requirements for a National State of Disaster to be declared in terms of the Disaster Management Act are no longer met, Cabinet has decided to terminate the National State of Disaster with effect from midnight tonight,” President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in an address to the nation.
The end of the National State of Disaster comes 750 days since the country went into its initial lockdown on 15 March 2020 to curb the spread of COVID-19.
This means that 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of the Disaster Management Act following the declaration of the National State of Disaster in response to COVID-19 are repealed with effect from midnight. However, this is with the exception of a few transitional measures.
The state of disaster was a response to a global health crisis that posed a grave threat to the lives and the well-being of South Africans. It empowered government to take measures that prevented many more people from becoming severely ill and saved countless lives.
The National State of Disaster provided the legal basis for the introduction of the special R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant, which continues to bring much needed relief to those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also enabled the establishment of the COVID TERS scheme, which provided wage support to millions of workers. The proclamation of the state of disaster further enabled the provision of relief to small businesses, the extension of the validity of vehicle and drivers’ licences and the management of the pandemic at educational institutions, among other things.
Going forward, the pandemic will be managed in terms of the National Health Act while the draft Health Regulations have been published for public comment, which closes on 16 April 2022. Once the comments have been considered, the new regulations will be finalised and promulgated.
The Disaster Management Act provides that certain elements of the regulations may remain in place for a limited period for ‘post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation’. These provisions will remain in place for 30 days after the termination of the National State of Disaster. This is to ensure essential public health precautions and other necessary services are not interrupted while the new regulations in terms of the National Health Act come into effect.
The President said the following shall apply:
“The few transitional measures that remain are limited in scope and allow almost all social and economic activity to resume as normal. They are essential to reduce the risk of a further COVID-19 wave and further disaster,” said the President. He emphasised that the transitional measures, which will lapse after 30 days, will allow the management of the pandemic to be dealt with by the health regulations or other provisions.
COVID-19 Vaccine Injury No-Fault Compensation Scheme
The President announced that the COVID-19 Vaccine Injury No-Fault Compensation Scheme will remain in place. The scheme, which is administered by the Department of Health, was brought into force in April last year to provide quick and easy access to compensation to any person who suffers a serious injury because of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. The scheme will continue after the National State of Disaster ends and will be terminated once it has achieved its purpose, said President Ramaphosa.
He said the end of the National State of Disaster is an important milestone in the fight against the pandemic. “It is a sign of the progress we have made together and a reminder of what our nation has endured. It is a moment to remember those who have lost their lives and the many people who are still struggling with the effects of the disease. The end of the National State of Disaster is a firm statement of our determination to live our lives and rebuild our country even as this virus remains in our midst.”
He maintained that vaccination is the best defence against COVID-19.
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