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After 667 days of lockdown, will the State of Disaster finally expire this weekend?

After 667 days of lockdown, will the State of Disaster finally expire this weekend?

The end of lockdown is closer than it’s ever been before, and the Omicron variant appears to have accelerated our journey to freedom. The State of Disaster regulations, therefore, are heading towards an inevitable conclusion.

The only question that remains is ‘when’, rather than ‘if’…

IS THE STATE OF DISASTER COMING TO AN END?

On Saturday 15 January, the State of Disaster regulations in their current form are set to expire. By default, the existing framework of Level 1 lockdown would cease to exist, freeing South Africa from virus control measures for the first time since March 2020.

Provincial Premiers want it to lapse. Top COVID-19 experts want it to lapse. And, right on queue, John Steenhuisen has surfaced to stick the boot in. The DA’s combative leader says the State of Disaster has now served its purpose, and means very little when the population has been largely immunised.

“The State of Disaster has become no more than a cover for increasing centralized control and evading accountability. It must go. It’s purpose is to relieve pressure on the health system. COVID hospitalisation rates are now low across the country…”

“Immunity rates are high across the population, the Omicron variant has been shown to be less severe, excess deaths have been mostly normal since September, and the health system has had ample time to prepare in the unlikely event of a new variant that evades immunity.”

“South Africa has now been under a State of Disaster for 667 days. For far too long now, the government has relied on the State of Disaster, instead of doing its job, which is to improve the healthcare system and get vaccines and boosters to as many individuals as possible.”

John Steenhuisen

LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS COULD BE RETAINED CAUTIOUSLY – BUT NOT FOR MUCH LONGER

However, despite the input from experts and senior politicians, the government may still be reluctant to pull the plug on restrictions. President Ramaphosa and his colleagues have previously reasoned they need the SoD framework in place, in case things go very wrong, very quickly.

Of course, the pandemic is still with us, and another significant challenge may show itself by the winter. But as we creep towards COVID endemicity, there is a growing appetite in South Africa for a return to normality.

So, regardless of whether regulations are lifted this weekend or not, the State of Disaster framework is still running on borrowed time.


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