Minister Phaahla says SA and the world have reached turning point against COVID

Health Minister, Joe Phaahla, has formally cancelled coronavirus pandemic regulations relating to wearing face masks, public gatherings and people entering the country.

Health Minister Joe Phaahla. Picture: @GCISMedia/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - Health Minister, Joe Phaahla, on Thursday said the country and the world had reached a major turning point in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Phaahla has formally cancelled coronavirus pandemic regulations relating to wearing face masks, public gatherings and people entering the country.

The minister said government monitored the course of the pandemic and found that the COVID-19 5th wave was driven by subvariants and not a new variant of concern.

He said the decision to lift regulations requiring the wearing of masks indoors, limitations on gatherings as well as those requiring vaccination proof or PCR negative tests at ports of entry received full support, including by the Presidential Coordinating Council and Cabinet on Wednesday.

"The COVID-19 virus is still around, it's not gone, it's still here. We are just stronger than before, especially with vaccination and we urge those not yet vaccinated to come forward and those due for boosters to also come forward," said the minister.

Phaahla has also warned that despite lifting all COVID-19 restrictions, the disease is still prevalent.

The Department of Health said a drop in the number of new daily cases, hospitalisations and deaths along with other indicators, prompted the decision.

Head of medical virology at Stellenbosch University, Professor Wolfgang Preiser, said he was concerned about people dropping face masks all together.

"Yes, masks are not perfect but if well-worn they have shown to reduce the risk of infecting others and of getting infected."

Health experts have reiterated the importance of coronavirus vaccination in keeping the virus at bay.