Pretoria - With just three weeks left to the end of the state of disaster which has been imposed to contain Covid-19, pressure is mounting on President Cyril Ramaphosa not to renew it.
Last Friday, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma extended the national state of disaster to February 15 despite numerous objections that these regulations were no longer necessary.
Various industries have reacted with disappointment to the extension of the national state of disaster.
On Tuesday, Solidarity Movement, including Solidarity and AfriForum, said it planned to approach the North Gauteng High Court in a bid to end the state of disaster which has been in place for about 22 months.
The state of national disaster has been renewed every month on the 15th since March 2020, restricting the number of people who can gather indoors or outdoors, imposing a curfew and costing businesses millions of rand in the process.
According to Solidarity Movement chairperson Flip Buys, it seems that the pandemic is now entering an endemic phase. He said it appeared that increased group immunity against Covid-19 could now be detected, with the Omicron variant, resulting in less serious illness and fewer deaths.
“The fact that the virus is now endemic means the virus won’t disappear, but we will have to learn to live with the virus. It also means that exceptional measures by the state, such as those that can be instituted under a state of disaster, are no longer necessary in an effort to control the virus,” Buys said.
There have also been growing calls for the national government to do away with lockdown regulations.
Wits University virology professor Shabir Madhi and the Western Cape government are the latest to join these calls.
In a recent interview, Madhi said it was irrational for the government to wait for an unlikely eventuality before lifting the current state of disaster and that, based on new evidence on the Omicron variant, the government should consider lifting the lockdown regulations which have been in place, as of today, for 658 days.
“Less than 5% of all the people that died of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic occurred during this (current) wave, compared to the Delta variant, which was responsible for 50% of the total Covid-19 deaths.
“It is improbable, considering what we have experienced with the Omicron wave, that we are going to get other waves that will result in similar numbers (as the Delta variant) of people that are going to be admitted to hospital and die of the virus. The notion that we need to wait and see tells us that we will need to wait and see for years to come, because there is no guarantee that we will not have another pandemic from a few years to come,” he said.
The Cogta Department was unavailable to comment on Ramaphosa’s decision concerning the scrapping or renewal of the state of disaster.