Is SA govt empowered to introduce COVID vaccination passport?

While some legal experts believe that the rights to individuals as enshrined in the Constitution would block such an intervention, others are of the opinion that there is enough in law to justify the vaccine mandates.

FILE: Other experts raised limitations in Section 36 of the Constitution, which contains the general limitations clause. Picture: 123rf.com

JOHANNESBURG - A medical ethics and law expert on Wednesday said the state of disaster management declaration and other laws in the constitution gave the government the power to implement COVID-19 vaccine passports, including in public facilities and areas.

While some legal experts believe that the rights to individuals as enshrined in the Constitution would block such an intervention, others are of the opinion that there is enough in law to justify the vaccine mandates.

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As pro-vaccination groups rely on the understanding that the country has always required vaccine documents for access to schools and other institutions, medical ethics and law professor at Stellenbosch University, Keymanthri Moodley said COVID-19 was a different case altogether.

She said the government was even more empowered to introduce the vaccination passport now with the declaration of a state of disaster than ever before.

“There is a limitation on certain rights under certain circumstances, the current pandemic is an example of circumstances in which individual rights can be limited,” Moodley said.

Other experts raised limitations in Section 36 of the Constitution, which contains the general limitations clause.

This states that people’s rights may be limited by law of general application that is “reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on dignity, freedom and equality."

However, Moodley said these rights were overpowered by the need to contain the public health crisis caused by COVID-19.

On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government was considering its approach on the vaccines passport matter as the private sector pushed ahead with its vaccine mandates for workers and others.

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