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DoH withdraws its statement that children should not wear masks at school

The Department of Health (DoH) says it regrets any confusion caused by its earlier statement that children should not wear face masks at school.

“This is not part of the gazetted health regulations, and is therefore retracted to avoid any misunderstanding of the regulations,” said the department.

The department said masks are an effective non-medical intervention against the spread of COVID-19, and it is more important now as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is rising once again.

Therefore, said DoH children like other people are required to comply with the provisions of Regulation16A on face masks in classrooms and general indoor gatherings unlike outdoors in playgrounds and sports fields.

“We want to remind South Africans that vaccinations for Covid-19 are available and accessible, and we can mitigate the impact of the expected fifth wave and any emerging variants.”

The Department said it had received a lot of feedback from people after announcing the extension of the consultation period for the new health regulations.

Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla said the department has extended the period for the public to comment on health regulations relating to surveillance and control of notifiable medical conditions; public measures in points of entry; management of human remains and environmental health by three months with effect May 5.

Dr.Phaahla said the deadline for submitting comments has been extended to July 5, 2022.

He said this extension is in line with the statutory requirements and will afford the department enough time to go through and review all comments and representations on these regulations.

Click below to download a pdf copy of the gazette publication

“There is no need for everyone who submitted comments during the original public consultation to resub­mit because they will already be considered by the process.”

“The DoH has gazetted limited regulations for implementation with immediate effect from May 5, 2022, to ensure that there is a legal instrument to contain the spread of COVID-19 and future notifiable medical condition.”

The main focus of these regulations is to wear face masks, when indoors, and in public places including gatherings and people entering the country.

  • A gathering is defined as a planned assembly or meeting at which there are more than 100 people present
  • If you’re planning an indoor or outdoor gathering, you can host up to 50% of the venue’s capacity provided that everyone attending has been vaccinated against COVID- 19 and produces a valid vaccination certificate.
  • Alternatively, attendees must provide a valid negative COVID‑19 test result not older that 72 hours prior to the event.
  • If it is not possible to comply with this indoor gathering requirement, then attendance shall be restricted to 1000 people or 50 percent of the capacity, whichever number is smaller.
  • Attendance at an outdoor gathering shall also be restricted to 2000 people or 50 percent of capacity, whichever number is lower.
  • All international travellers arriving in South Africa from any port of entry must be vaccinated against COVID-19 and produce a valid vaccination certificate, or produce a valid negative PCR COVID-19 test result not older than 72 hours before the date of their departure from another country.
  • Alternatively, travellers who want to avoid the risk of contracting COVID-19 should get a valid negative antigen COVD-19 test result performed either by a medical practitioner, a registered public health authority or an accredited/approved laboratory within 48 hours before their flight departure.
  • If an international traveller cannot produce a valid vaccination certificate or a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result older than 72 hours or a negative antigen test performed at least 48 hours before departure, then they must undergo antigen testing upon arrival.
  • Travellers under the age of 12 and daily commuters from neighbouring counties are exempt from the vaccination requirement.

The DoH has stated that the proposed amendments to health regulations do not amend any existing laws but instead augment them.

“We want to remind everyone that, even though we’re currently in a state of national emergency, there’s still an imperative to provide people with options for managing COVID-19 and other notifiable medical issues without invoking the state of emergency.”

The DoH reminds people that COVID-19 continues to be a serious threat to their lives, and South Africa is not yet out of danger.

“The only thing that can protect us from this virus and the increasing number of positive cases is by getting vaccinated and following preventative measures at all times. Fully vaccinated people are urged to get booster shots to increase their immune system.”

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