S.Africa repeals COVID rules on mask-wearing, gatherings, entry

JOHANNESBURG, June 23 (Reuters) – South Africa has repealed COVID-19 restrictions on mask-wearing in indoor public spaces, limits on the size of gatherings and entry requirements at its borders, a notice in the government gazette showed.

In the brief notice, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said he had repealed regulations promulgated in May under the National Health Act to control the spread of COVID.

The regulations he referred to made face masks mandatory in indoor public spaces and on public transport. They also placed limits on the size of indoor and outdoor public gatherings and meant international travellers entering South Africa had to show a vaccination certificate or negative COVID test.

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Travellers who did not present a vaccination certificate or negative test had to take an antigen test and if they tested positive and showed symptoms self-isolate for 10 days.

Phaahla and another minister are due to address reporters at a briefing at 0900 GMT where more details are expected to be announced.

South Africa experienced four severe COVID waves, but a resurgence in infections in April and May turned out to be not as bad as feared, with hospitalisations and deaths not rising dramatically unlike previous surges. read more

In April, President Cyril Ramaphosa lifted most restrictions and announced the end of the national state of disaster, a mechanism that allowed the government to enforce measures to manage the pandemic. read more

The country has recorded the most coronavirus cases and deaths on the African continent, with over 3.9 million confirmed cases and more than 101,000 deaths. It initially struggled to secure vaccines due to limited supplies and protracted negotiations, but it is now well-supplied with doses.

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Reporting by Alexander Winning and Anait Miridzhanian; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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