South Africa repeals COVID rules on mask-wearing, gatherings and entry

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa has repealed COVID-19 restrictions on mask wearing in indoor public spaces, limits on the size of gatherings and entry requirements at its borders, a notice in the official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

In the brief notice, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said he had repealed regulations enacted in May under the National Health Act to control the spread of COVID.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 imposed limits on the size of indoor and outdoor public gatherings and meant that international travelers entering South Africa had to present a vaccination certificate or a negative COVID test.

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Travelers who did not show a vaccination certificate or negative test were required to take an antigen test and if positive and showing symptoms, self-isolate for 10 days.

Phaahla and another minister are due to address reporters at a briefing at 09:00 GMT where more details are expected to be announced.

South Africa has seen four severe waves of COVID, but a resurgence of infections in April and May proved less severe than expected, with hospitalizations and deaths not rising dramatically unlike previous surges.

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

The country has recorded the most coronavirus cases and deaths on the African continent, with over 3.9 million confirmed cases and over 101,000 deaths. He initially struggled to get vaccines due to limited supplies and protracted negotiations, but is now well stocked with doses.

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

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