By failing to heed the advice of health experts to combat Covid-19, the government has been heavily criticized for expanding regulations about disguise, meetings and travel, with two leading scholars admitting that the document was poorly drafted and did not serve the purpose.
After unveiling proposed amendments to health regulations that went into effect this week and asking for public comment by July, the Department of Health said:
- Wearing a face mask should be maintained when entering and staying inside closed public places or when entering public transport;
- No more than 50% of participants must be present at any indoor or outdoor gathering, provided that each participant has been vaccinated against Covid-19, presents a valid certificate of vaccination or a valid negative test result, no later than 72 hours before the date assembly. .
- All international travelers arriving at ports of entry in South Africa must be vaccinated against Covid-19 and present a valid vaccination certificate or a valid negative PCR test result no later than 72 hours prior to departure date.
Ridiculing the latest protocols, Professor Shabir Madhi, executive director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Analysis Research Unit at Wits University, said they were “full of internal contradictions.”
“Regulations, still focused on preventing infections, have failed miserably in the context of South Africa. Simply put, SA continues on its unique mission to overhaul rules that, unsurprisingly, have failed to prevent the spread of the virus in our context.
“All of this is being done at the cost of further undermining economic recovery, further damaging livelihoods and disrupting sports and other events,” Madhi said of the ongoing restrictions on outdoor gatherings of up to 2,000 people.
“It makes no sense, since the safest place is outdoors, where the risk of infection is nominal, as opposed to eateries and bars where people drink without a mask,” he said.
Madhi called it “ludicrous” to attempt to subject foreign travelers to a PCR test prior to arrival, “but not so if they are regularly traveling from neighboring countries.”
Epidemiologist Dr Jo Barnes said “it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that the government is really unwilling to listen to outside sources and will only do so when the pressure for change starts to build.”
Political uncertainty has created “the impression that the process of regulating public health to combat Covid-19 is in disarray, further eroding public confidence.”
“Public decision makers tasked with managing the pandemic do not provide information about why they chose specific rules and regulations, convincing us with the scientific data that led to those rules,” Barnes said.
“In the past two years, they have never done this. “Health services cannot learn from decision-making processes or be able to challenge before it is implemented.”
The problems had to manifest themselves in practice, and then it was necessary to apply to the state decision-making bodies with a request to change the normative acts.
“This is not a productive or positive way to prevent problems or get support from the key people who were supposed to implement them.”