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Lift Covid-19 regulations, except masks — experts

Image: 123rf/kellyermis

Business community and academics are anticipating that the government will further relax Covid-19 regulations based on the level of immunity in the country and hospitalisation and the need to return to normalcy.

But other medical experts feel the government should adopt a cautious approach as it is still winter.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was scheduled to meet the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) yesterday to discuss, among others, a proposal to lift all Covid19-related restrictions on gatherings and the wearing of masks.

In April, the government relaxed Covid-19 regulations by allowing people to not wear masks when  outdoors unless they have flu symptoms. Indoor and outdoor venues were allowed to take up to 50% of their capacity provided there is proof of vaccination produced at the entrance.

SA Medical Association (Sama) chairperson Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa said relaxing the regulations would be appropriate as infection and hospitalisation have dropped significantly. According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, as of Tuesday evening 1,850 patients had been admitted in private and public hospitals for Covid-19-related ailments. 

“Deaths due to Covid-19 have started to decline. We know now that about 90% of the population has been exposed to the virus, which means that people have got natural immunity. But there is also vaccinations that have taken place. If you add that to the natural immunity, it gives us a better standing now which we believe is one of the causes that led to us not having many deaths in the fifth wave,” said Mzukwa.

Mzukwa proposed that masks should be worn by people who have symptoms when indoors. He added that restrictions on gatherings had to end as the government had failed even to police them.

But Dr Hazel Mufhandu, virologist at the North West University, said removing masks could cause problems.

“We could see more strains arriving. We’ve seen how Covid-19 can mutate. We were lucky enough that Omicron was not that hectic, but with viruses you can never be certain that come the next one it will be better than Omicron.

“We still need to be cautious and wear masks, especially during winter season,” she said.

Meanwhile,  Tourism Business Council of SA CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said the sector would be pleased if regulations were further relaxed.

“It would be good news for the sector. It is important that we lift all outstanding restrictions. We have learnt a lot about the disease but I think that it is time that we move on,” Tshivhengwa said.

He added that the sector is now sitting at a 60% of recovery.

“We need conferences to come back and corporate travel to come back for us to see more recovery. We are optimistic that we may even fully recover as a sector come the end of the year,” he said.

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