The hospitality sector has welcomed the fact that the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) is reconsidering whether to uphold the current National State of Disaster.
Late last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa, said: “We are examining how best we should handle the State of Disaster in this period where the infections have tapered down and to see the efficacy of using the State of Disaster legislation or utilising other measures.
“The National Coronavirus Command Council is examining exactly that to see whether we can use health protocols and health regulations to move forward in our management of this pandemic.”
The National State of Disaster was declared by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, as a response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Recently, the State of Disaster was extended to February 15.
“As an industry, we have always been sensitive to the fact that balancing lives and livelihoods is a difficult task,” said Rosemary Anderson, FEDHASA National Chair.
“We understand that sacrifices had to be made to curb to spread of the pandemic. However, the hospitality industry can’t continue to be switched on and off to stem the spread of COVID. There has to be a more sustainable route to follow, which does not cause more harm than the pandemic itself,” she said.
The hospitality sector has largely borne the brunt of changing lockdown regulations, despite putting in place stringent health and hygiene protocols.
Anderson said FEDHASA called on the Government to look at scientific evidence to rather control the spread of COVID and lift the National State of Disaster.
“This will assist in providing confidence for our international tourists and encourage them to visit our shores and start to rebuild that sector of tourism that was devastated by not only the restrictions, but by South Africa’s red listing by so many countries,” she said.
The Western Cape provincial government has long been calling on national government to lift the State of Disaster as well, with Premier Alan Winde saying: “The Western Cape has furnished clear evidence that COVID-19 has reached an endemic stage. This data supports normalising our response, with common-sense public health measures incorporated into existing public health legislation.
The truth is that the Disaster Declaration, which is an extreme measure, is no longer needed for its intended purpose of protecting our healthcare system, and it must come to an end.”
Several health experts recently expressed in an op-ed piece for the Daily Maverick that they saw no reason for the continued use of this legislation, nor for the NCCC.
The opinion piece outlined several steps that could be taken to manage COVID-19 differently.
However, not everyone shared their views, with Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation at the University of KwaZulu Natal, Professor Mosa Moshabela, expressing concern, saying that the country cannot rush to this decision as it risked creating a “legal vacuum” for COVID-19 regulations.
The Sunday Times reported him as saying that a delay was needed to develop and introduce regulations that would allow government departments to keep managing COVID rules.
“Our regulations are linked to the Disaster Management Act. If we end it then we don’t really have the legislation that is going to anchor those regulations. If anyone were to challenge the regulations in court, they would win,” Moshabela was quoted as saying.