DA objects to proposed new health regulations: An open letter to Minister Phaahla

Issued by Michele Clarke MP – DA Shadow Minister of Health
04 Apr 2022 in News

Dear Minister Phaahla,

Over the last two years, many South Africans have lost their jobs, had their businesses closed and many were restricted from seeing their families and friends due to the various lockdown levels associated with the National State of Disaster.

When President Ramaphosa announced that the National State of Disaster would come to an end, many South Africans breathed a sigh of relief. However, on 15 March 2022, draft regulations to the National Health Act 61 of 2003, namely the regulations relating to the surveillance and the control of notifiable medical conditions were published in the Government Gazette for public comment.

I am writing this letter to you to raise my concerns about these draft regulations as I fear that these regulations will be used as a continuation of the lockdown regulations after the official National State of Disaster has ended. My concerns with these regulations are as follows:

  • These regulations will ultimately force South Africans to have compulsory medical examinations, tests, and treatment for certain Notifiable Medical Conditions (“NMC”) in the event they test positive, or merely are suspected of testing positive, for a NMC (which would include Covid-19);
  • Secondly, these regulations ambiguously insert regulation 15A which states that “any person who has been confirmed as having contracted a NMC, or is suspected of having contracted a NMC…may not refuse prophylaxis or treatment”. Currently, the only prophylaxis to Covid-19 that is available is the vaccination. Under this clause, it appears that people will be forced to get the Covid-19 vaccination. This surely goes against the right to bodily integrity as enshrined in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution;
  • Thirdly, these regulations give you, as the Minister, unchecked power to instill lockdowns and restrictions without the requirement of receiving advice from the experts;
  • Fourthly, the regulations stipulate strict requirements for a self-isolation site/home, many of which are simply not an option for the ordinary South African. The requirements that a person who has tested positive for a NMC must have a phone and internet as well as access to a private healthcare practitioner do not consider the millions of citizens who live in poverty.

The National State of Disaster has reached a point where regulations and restrictions are unreasonable and irrational, as the threat and veracity of Covid-19 has substantially declined with the newer variants. It does not pose a threat to the state of health in the country as it once did in 2020.

These regulations are not informed by the latest scientific evidence or expert opinions of various experts both here in South Africa and abroad.

It seems that President Ramaphosa has reneged on his word when he promised South Africans that no one will be forced to receive the Covid-19 vaccination, or that South Africa would soon do away with the National State of Disaster and accompanying regulations.

Vaccination is the most effective way to fight this pandemic. Instead of instilling it by force, government needs to amplify its vaccination education campaign and vaccination drive in order to increase the number of people getting vaccinated.

The people of South Africa cannot afford to be kept in further lockdowns after an already turbulent two years of hardship and restrictions of their basic human rights. Should you not withdraw these irrational and unreasonable draft regulations, the Democratic Alliance will put forth its own objection to these regulations and encourage every other South African to do the same.

Yours Sincerely,

Michele Clarke MP, DA Shadow Minister of Health