Court cases, confusion over health regulations

Supporters of Action 4 Freedom (A4F) outside the High Court in Cape Town on April 26 before the start of a case in which A4F took the minister of health to court over the validity of the process for public comment on proposed health regulation amendments (PHOTO: Action 4 Freedom)

On May 4 the minister of health, Dr Joe Paahla published new “interim” health regulations that look a lot like the old state-of-disaster regulations and also extended the time period for public comment on draft “permanent” health regulations.

He also said he was extending the time for public comments on the draft regulations — by three months according to an official notice, and until July 5 according to a press release. Observers were quick to spot that the time periods the minister has announced appear to conflict, and Justice NPO Action 4 Freedom (A4F) has written an open letter to the minister requesting clarity on a number of ambiguities regarding his announcements on the extended public participation process.

A4F has also lodged an appeal against its recent unsuccessful urgent application to the Cape Town High Court to declare unlawful the public participation process for the draft health regulation amendments.

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Meanwhile, on Monday, Afriforum and Dear South Africa filed an application in which they have asked the Pretoria High Court to declare the new health regulations inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid.

The applicants say the regulations published shortly before temporary state of disaster regulations expired at midnight on May 4 are, effectively, government’s ploy to hold on indefinitely to mask mandates and other regulations previously imposed under a state of disaster. They say that the minister of health should notify them by May 17 if he wishes to oppose the application.

Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) has also taken action regarding the new regulations, by writing an open letter to the minister of health asking why he has listed Covid-19 as a category 2 medical condition and why he has not differentiated between different variants of which some are “too mild” to be deemed a public health risk.

The letter also asks, in the light of scientific studies showing that more than 80% of South Africans have immunity to Covid-19 and the rest of the world is moving away from regulating it, for the department’s reasons for numerical limitations on gatherings, for requiring proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test for further restricting access to gatherings, and for continuing to make a contravention of the regulations a crime punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

FOR SA says that it is important for citizens to continue commenting on the draft health regulations, which will replace the “interim” new regulations published on May 4. Comments can be made via the Dear South Africa platform, or by emailing legalreviews@health.gov.za, or via a website link at https://www.health.gov.za/public-comments-on-regulations/, or via Whatsapp by sending the word COMMENT to 060 123 3456.

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