Following the publication of new Covid-19 health regulations by Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla, Solidarity launched legal action against the regulations, calling them “unlawful and irrational”.
Phaahla published amendments to health regulations on Wednesday night, just hours before the 30 days of transitional rules (put in place after the end of the National State of Disaster on Covid-19) automatically lapsed.
“The Department of Health’s (DoH's) dragging its heels in publishing the regulations led to the absurd situation where the South African public did not know by 23:00 last night what would hit them the next morning. This is totally unacceptable and it has taken the country back to family meetings and with the immediate effect of lockdowns,” Solidarity chief executive Dr Dirk Hermann said.
Regulations retain the wearing of masks in all indoor public spaces.
The venue capacity for indoor and outdoor gatherings is a maximum of 50%, if attendees are vaccinated against Covid-19 and have a valid vaccination certificate.
If these requirements are not met, attendees must produce a valid negative Covid-19 test result not older than 72 hours prior to the date of the gathering.
“If complying with this indoor gathering requirement is not possible, then attendance shall be limited to 1 000 people or 50% of the capacity, whichever is smaller, while the attendance at an outdoor gathering shall be limited to 2 000 people or 50% of the capacity, whichever is smaller," said the DoH.
Solidarity issued Phaahla with a legal letter asking him to disclose how the decision on the Covid-19 health regulations was reached.
Hermann said there was major uncertainty about the legal framework within which these limited regulations functioned.
“The most draconic and worrying of the new regulations is the fact that the Minister of Health can arbitrarily decide to enact or withdraw them. Practically, this means the Minister can put the whole country into lockdown with no prior notice and no limits to this power. The huge uncertainty this creates in several sectors of the economy will have major consequences if the regulations remain as is,” he explained.
He argued that no mention was made of preserving the country’s healthcare capacity by the regulations, saying South Africa traded a temporary pandemic for an eternal lockdown which, he says, cannot be allowed.
He said Solidarity’s legal team was also considering further steps to challenge the substance of the regulations relating to the public comment process.
Hermann argued that while government admitted in the Government Gazette that it needed more time to consider public input, it nonetheless, gazetted the regulations.
He added that government’s actions made a “mockery” of the public participation process and showed “the true colours of a government that wants to rule over citizens rather than in solidarity with citizens”.
AfriForum campaigns manager Jacques Broodryk said AfriForum’s court documents had already been finalised and its legal team was also standing by to immediately fight amendments.
He added that AfriForum would litigate to review the “astoundingly and unjustifiable regulations”.