- South Africa's mask mandate – and all remaining Covid-19 rules – expire tonight.
- But a last-minute update is due, the department of health said on Wednesday.
- The sudden dismantling of the state of disaster left a 30-day window for new health regulations to be finalised.
- They turned out to be controversial.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
A last-minute update to national regulations on Wednesday night should keep in place South Africa's mask mandate, and the other remaining Covid-19 rules, the department of health says.
All remaining restrictions, originally imposed via a national state of disaster, are due to expire at midnight.
But before that, there will be new regulations, Nicholas Crisp, deputy director-general at the department of health, said late Wednesday morning.
Crisp did not provide further detail, and it was not yet clear whether the Wednesday update would be a stop-gap measure, or if the department intended to publish and activate amendments to regulations on communicable disease more broadly.
The department gave itself seven working days to consider public comment on those communicable-disease rules, which had a controversial reception.
Like the state of disaster under which Covid-19 was previously managed, the communicable disease rules would allow for the imposition of booze bans, or mask mandates, during any pandemic. Some groups have argued that entire approach is unconstitutional, with various implied threats of legal action should the minister of health go ahead with publication.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the end of the national state of disaster on Covid-19 on 4 April. That dismantled the legal authority under which mass gatherings were banned and masks were mandated on public transport and in public-access buildings.
A set of "transitional measures" kept those rules in place until now, but were set to automatically lapse after 30 days.
Should there be no replacement rules, there will be no legal authority to require anyone to wear a mask, anywhere, or to prevent stadiums or concert halls from being packed to their safety limits determined before the pandemic, whether or not attendees are vaccinated.