Following President Ramaphosa’s Tuesday 22 March nation address regarding the Covid response, political parties, civil organisations and members of the public have largely expressed discontent with the continuation of the mandates.

The country remains on Level 1 Alert, despite infections reducing and almost no threat from the disease.

DA Shadow Minister of Health, Michele Clarke MP, released a statement today saying that the DA will submit a request in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to obtain the minutes and recommendations of the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) with regards to abolishing lockdowns.

This comes as the draft amendments to the National Health Act published in the government gazette last week, pose a threat to citizens’ civil and human rights as stated in the Bill of Rights.

It is vital that the proposed amendments are not only clarified but also that it is known how the amendments came to be. The extended nonsensical mandates and proposed amendments are “nothing less than an attempt by a power-hungry ANC government to make the temporary regulations of the National State of Disaster, permanent” said Ms Clarke.

“The South African people have a right to know exactly what was said in the meetings that convinced the government to believe that this is the proper course of action to follow, even though it is so far from reasonable scientific thinking” added Ms Clarke.

It is of grave concern that the government appears to be attempting to retain the power to plunge South Africa into lockdown even in the absence of a State of Disaster declaration.

The proposed National Health Act regulations, currently open to public participation, refer to “Refusal of medical examination, prophylaxis, treatment, isolation, quarantine protocols in public areas and gatherings” in the following way:

According to 15 A

A person who:

“(a) has been confirmed as a clinical or a laboratory-confirmed case as having contracted a notifiable listed condition; or (b) a person who is suspected to have contracted a notifiable medical condition that is listed; or (b) a person who has been in contact with a person who is a carrier of a notifiable medical condition that is among a list of conditions in the relevant annexures and tables.”

May not refuse to:

“(i) Submit to a medical examination, including inter alia, the taking of bodily sample which may be authorised by any law; (ii) be admitted to a health establishment, quarantine or isolation; (iii) submit to mandatory treatment, isolation or quarantine to prevent transmission.”

This concerning section leaves the definition of “notifiable conditions” wide open as they are not defined anywhere. “Even more worrying is that there is nothing that prevents the government arbitrarily changing this list of ‘notifiable conditions’. We are hoping that the minutes of the meeting will shed light in this regard” said Ms Clarke.

Furthermore, In clause 15 B, of the proposed amendment says that:

“A person referred to in regulation 15A must comply with an oral instruction or written order issued by a medical practitioner, or a person authorised by them, a nurse or an enforcement officer. (2) If a person refuses to quarantine himself/herself, or isolate/quarantine as directed, a court order might be obtained to compel such person to comply with the above.”

The proposed changes to the National Health Act are riddled with many instances which are in direct contravention of the Bill of Right’s section 12 (2) which provides that: Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right—(a) to make decisions concerning reproduction; (b) to security in and control over their body; and (c) not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiments without their informed consent.

Ms Clarke said that the DA believes in personal liberty and the Rule of Law, and that the party will fight any attempt to effectively extend the State of Disaster as well as limit of the rights of law-abiding South Africans.

She added that she believes the government is throwing this at South Africans to see what will stick. “We see this for what it is: a power-grab by power-hungry individuals who will go to any length to impose their will – even it means trampling on constitutional rights” she said, “The DA will not allow an attack on South Africans’ rights and liberties under the guise of fighting Covid-19”.

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