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John Steenhuisen renews call for scrapping of Covid-19 state of disaster

DA leader John Steenhuisen says the National Coronavirus Command Council is profoundly undemocratic. File photo.
DA leader John Steenhuisen says the National Coronavirus Command Council is profoundly undemocratic. File photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

DA leader John Steenhuisen has again called for an end to the national state of disaster.

Last month the government announced a relaxation in Covid-19 lockdown regulations,  scrapping the curfew in time for New Year's Eve but it kept the state of disaster, saying removing it would send the wrong message — that the pandemic was over.

This paved the way for South Africans to enjoy New Year's Eve celebrations without having to dash home before midnight. Previously the Covid-19 curfew was midnight.

“The state of disaster is no longer necessary for managing the virus. On the contrary, it is doing SA more harm than good, by undermining our social, economic and democratic recovery.

“SA needs certainty. Investors need it, tourists need it, teachers need it, schoolchildren need it. Schoolchildren need to go to school full-time. Not a couple of days a week,” Steenhuisen said in a statement on Tuesday.

He said people needed to know they can invest in businesses, large or small, without the rules of the game suddenly changing.

“Without investment, there will be no job creation and no sustainable poverty alleviation. The National Coronavirus Command Council [a structure which reports to the cabinet on the pandemic] is profoundly undemocratic. There is great risk to our democracy in a small group of individuals taking decisions on all our behalf without parliamentary oversight and other democratic checks on power.

“The state of disaster has become no more than a cover for increasing centralised control and evading accountability. It must go. The purpose of it and associated restrictions is to relieve pressure on the health system. Covid-19 hospitalisation rates are now low across the country, immunity rates [from vaccines or prior infection] are high, the Omicron variant has been shown to be less severe, excess deaths have been mostly normal since September, and the health system has had ample time to prepare in the unlikely event of a new variant that evades immunity,” said Steenhuisen.

He argued that the state of disaster could not be justified by the argument that it should be kept in case of possible future variants or waves.

“The world is grappling with the Omicron variant, which was first detected in the country, but it has not proven to be too deadly in SA.”

The DA has been the most vocal opposition party against the government's curfew and stringent regulations.



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