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Mixed reactions to lifting of Covid-19 state of disaster, lingering regulations

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Mixed reactions to lifting of Covid-19 state of disaster, lingering regulations

5th April 2022

By: Schalk Burger
Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

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Business organisation Business Unity South Africa (Busa) has welcomed the repeal of the National State of Disaster regulations and calls for all sectors of society to demonstrate similar united effort to deal with severe socioeconomic problems.

“We believe the declaration of a State of Disaster at the advent of Covid-19 in our country was the right decision and has, by and large, had a positive impact on our ability to manage the impact of the pandemic on lives and livelihoods,” says Busa CEO Cas Coovadia.

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He notes that South Africa now has the opportunity to accelerate efforts to grow its economy in a sustainable and inclusive manner, thus creating much-needed jobs.

“We urge government to demonstrate courageous leadership in taking the tough decisions to attract investment and work with business and other social partners to grow our economy. South Africa focused on the critical issue of the pandemic and united to address it.

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“We must now do the same to attract investment, grow our economy and create sustainable jobs,” Coovadia says.

POLICY MISALIGNMENT

Hospitality and tourism industry organisation the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) highlights, however, that there are lingering policy gaps and uncertainties affecting travellers, who are subjected to various tests that are no longer required by Covid-19 regulations.

South Africa’s recent lifting of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for fully vaccinated inbound travellers is aligned with regulations around the world. However, there remains a gap in regulations that will have a lingering impact on family travel, says Fedhasa.

According to the new regulations, announced March 22, only children under the age of five are exempt from having to furnish either a vaccination certificate or negative PCR test to travel to South Africa.

“The issue lies in the fact that many countries do not offer vaccinations to children between five and 12 years, and neither does South Africa.

“This means [that], even if parents are fully vaccinated, a family with children aged between five and 12 years has no choice but to have to pay for PCR tests, which we know in certain countries like the UK is not only onerous to obtain, but also expensive,” says Fedhasa chairperson Rosemary Anderson.

It is logistically prohibitive to obtain these PCR tests in certain countries. In the UK, one of South Africa’s largest source markets, it can cost as much as £150, or about R3 000, for a PCR test issued within 12 hours because clinics are only located in major centres.

Anderson highlights the ire that South Africa felt when other countries red-listed it at the end of 2021, making it exceedingly difficult, and in some cases impossible, to travel to South Africa. This caused untold damage to the tourism and hospitality sector and job losses.

“A few months later and it would appear we’re scoring our own goal by precluding families with children between the age of five and 12 years from visiting South Africa because of this inconvenient rule.

“We should be doing the exact opposite by making it as easy as possible for families to visit South Africa to make up for the massive job losses and lost revenue over the past two years,” says Anderson.

“If job creation is top of mind for the South African government, regulations without any scientific base that prohibit the private sector from creating jobs should be removed,” she emphasises.

Further, civil rights group Afriforum says that, following the month-long temporary continuation of Covid-19 regulations, new health regulations will make temporary measures permanent, including some measures that were struck down in court, such as forced quarantine.

“The new health regulations amount to the permanent legal enactment of supposedly temporary measures afforded to the government under the Disaster Management Act. This means that most of the Covid-19 measures will remain in place and some measures that were struck down in court, such as forced quarantine, will take effect again,” it says.

AfriForum is preparing legal commentary in opposition to the new health regulations. The commentary will outline that the regulations are irrational and illegal, the organisation says.

“The government’s ending of the state of disaster is merely symbolic since it is planning on permanently enacting Covid-19 measures into the health regulations.

“We, as AfriForum, strongly and unequivocally oppose the government’s sly and power-hungry actions. We owe it to our members and the general public to prevent this outrageous abuse of power,” says AfriForum strategy and content campaign officer Reiner Duvenage.

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