FOR SA comments on latest health regulations, extended period for public comments

Minister of Health Dr Joe Paahla

As expected, the Minister of Health published new health regulations yesterday ahead of last night’s midnight expiry of Covid-19 restrictions originally imposed via a national state of disaster.

In a move that was not generally expected he also extended the time period for public comment on the controversial Draft Health Regulations until July 5. 

In a press statement released today, Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) comments on the Health Regulations Amendment, 2022 which were promulgated yesterday which list Covid-19 as a category 2 notifiable medical condition. The amendments are now in effect and bring about changes to the existing 2017 Regulations Relating to the Surveillance and the Control of Notifiable Medical Conditions

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Read together, these are now the new “rules for society” going forward, indefinitely, and until decided otherwise by the Health Minister, says FOR SA. 

“As with the Disaster Management Act Regulations, these regulations can be changed at any time with immediate effect to limit our constitutional rights to greater degrees.

FOR SA explains that the newly promulgated Health Regulations Amendment, 2022 differ from the Draft Health Regulations whose public comment period has been extended.

The latter regulations “would have instituted e.g. mandatory ;treatment; (which was undefined and could have been interpreted to mean mandatory vaccination) and they are not included in the Health Regulations Amendment, 2022 now promulgated by the minister,” says FOR SA’s executive director, Michael Swain.

Swain welcomed the extended opportunity for comment, but pointed out that the Health Regulations Amendment, 2022 still “fail to incorporate many of the over 300 000 individual comments made by the public to oppose sections of the Draft Health Regulations — specifically that the minister has the sole discretion to list something a ‘notifiable medical condition’; and that these regulations will remain in effect indefinitely as long as a disease is listed as a notifiable medical condition.”

“FOR SA is also fundamentally opposed to the numeric limitations imposed on gatherings as well as the requirement that proof of vaccination or negative Covid tests must be shown to gain access to meetings over 1 000 people indoors, regardless of the capacity of the building.”

“It is a gross violation of religious freedom rights to force a pastor, imam, rabbi or priest to exclude a person from a religious serviced based upon their economic to pay for a Covid test or their vaccination status,” says Swain, “This is reminiscent of the hated ‘dompas’ of the apartheid era since non-compliance can be punished by a 10- year jail sentence or an unlimited fine”.

Questions remain overall about the continued regulation of South African society under the pretext of a health emergency.  “Why has COVID-19 been listed as a category 2 notifiable medical condition (i.e. the second most severe category), irrespective of variant, and at a time when much of the rest of the world is moving away from COVID-19 regulations entirely?” asks Swain.

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