Cape Town, SOUTH AFRICA - July 25: a member of the
Lockdown enforcement. (Roger Sedres/Gallo Images)
  • South Africa is now likely to spend 20 months under a national state of disaster related to Covid-19 by mid-November.
  • On Wednesday, co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma officially extended the state of disaster by another month.
  • That creates the framework under which rules for curfew, mask-wearing in public, and other lockdown rules operate.
  • Government had targeted herd immunity by Christmas, with the implied promise that restrictions could be lifted.
  • That target is becoming increasingly improbable to be reached.
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South Africa will remain in a national state of disaster on Covid-19 until at least 15 November 2021, co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma announced on Wednesday, except in the unlikely event that it is cancelled early.

That state of disaster was first declared on 15 March 2020, which will take its total duration to 20 months, or 610 days – with dwindling chances that it will not be extended again into December, and likely into 2022.

Dlamini Zuma made the extension formal by publication in the Government Gazette, the only step required to maintain the legal umbrella under which all current lockdown rules are enforced, from curfew to the risk of criminal prosecution for failing to wear a mask in public.

The emergency powers granted by the continued state of disaster is also what ministers previously used to ban the sale of roast chickens, and cigarettes, and haircuts, to set strict conditions for visiting Gauteng, and to decree exactly what kinds of winter clothing shoppers could buy, at various points in time.

The extension was, again, "taking into account the need to continue augmenting the existing legislation and contingency arrangements undertaken by organs of state to address the impact of the disaster", said Dlamini Zuma in the notice.

Officially, government's target remains to "immunise" – so administer both doses in the case of a two-dose vaccine – 67% of the population by the end of 2021.

As recently as end September, President Cyril Ramaphosa linked a summer without serious restrictions to a sufficiently high vaccination rate.

With the now standard two-week waiting period after the final dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to be deemed fully vaccinated, that leaves just over two months to vaccinate another 16.3 million people. That, in turn, would require a rate of more than 270,000 vaccinations per day, seven days a week – if all those vaccines were single-dose preparations. The waiting period between doses of the Pfizer vaccine (which currently accounts for 77% of those administered) would require a much faster pace of vaccination for the rest of October, and a realistic mixture of vaccines would require 350,000 jabs per day, experts estimate.

The current vaccination rate is under 200,000 per day.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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