Why the Health Dept says mask-wearing will remain… for now

With most of the COVID-19 restrictions essentially done away with, focus is now on whether South Africans are ready to ditch mask-wearing.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, who was at the forefront of government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic recently told eNCA that the wearing of masks and using sanitiser should no longer be necessary, particularly as the country prepares for life post-COVID-19.

“I don’t know what government’s plans are with removing masks but what we’ve seen from other countries is that we have reached a stage where we can change our overall strategy, we can remove most of our restrictions and public health measures at this point,” Karim told the broadcaster.

YOU CAN ALSO READ: ‘No need for masks in schools’: SA expert wants to DITCH face coverings


The Department of Health, however, doesn’t agree with Karim’s stance and reckons citizens should continue wearing masks while applying the same preventative measures. The department’s Dr Nicholas Crisp tells CapeTalk this is because of the country’s low vaccination rates.

“What we need to ensure, should we get a severe 5th wave, is that we are able, without the State of Disaster, to put the necessary measures in place to sustain the protection in the community… we’ll wait until the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) makes an announcement”

“We’ve talked to other countries that are now, no masks and can go to stadiums and enjoy their lives, but they have 90% vaccination coverage and even countries with 70% are insisting on wearing masks in public places and we’re sitting at 48% of our population vaccinated. So this is a very big difference”

The Department of Health’s Dr Nicholas Crisp

While some strides have been made in vaccinating as many people as possible, the numbers are still not enough to warrant mask mandates being lifted.

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla recently revealed that approximately  43% of 40 million adults in the country have been full vaccinated, which means government is still about 27% short on its target.

YOU CAN ALSO READ: Some hope? What the Health Dept says about wearing masks

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