- Health minister Joe Phaahla anticipates that face masks will be around for several months – and will outlast the national state of disaster.
- He has proposed regulations that would make masks mandatory in public buildings and public transport for as long as Covid-19 is a notifiable disease.
- There would be no need to wear a mask on the street, though.
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Health minister Joe Phaahla believes face masks should outlive the national state of disaster on the coronavirus, and possibly stick around for a long time yet, new draft rules he published this week show.
Under those rules, face masks would remain mandatory in three broad areas:
- when "in a gathering in an indoor public place"
- "use any form of public transport", and
- to "enter a public premises".
Companies would be required to provide face masks to employees.
Notably absent from the list is any outdoor public space, the requirement under current coronavirus-specific regulations that mean you have to don a mask as soon as you set foot in the street, unless you are exercising or eating.
The new draft rules are due to replace the Covid-19 rules that draw their power from the national state of disaster, now in place for two years. The new set will instead operate under legislation that deals with notifiable diseases, and which gives the government the power to manage such diseases.
The new mask mandate could be applied to any notifiable disease that spreads via the air.
The draft rules are open to public comment until mid-April, and would likely come to force only well after that.
The department of health said on Thursday it would not require Parliament to sign off on the rules, as they fall within powers Parliament had already granted to the minister of health to deal with serious diseases. Instead, they had been put before the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints), a high-powered body originally used for coordination between the SA Police Service and the defence force.
The draft rules also lay out the requirements for self-isolation, as opposed to being directed to a government facility.
See also | SA prepares to allow self-isolation – as long as you have an en-suite bathroom and internet
(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)