Health · June 24, 2022

Wearing masks in schools is optional for everyone, Motshekga says



Following the Government’s decision to lift all remaining Covid-19 regulations, Minister for Basic Education Angie Motshekga says wearing masks in public schools will now be optional for students and educators.

Health Minister Dr. Joe Phaahla signed a note in the State Gazette on Wednesday ending Covid-19 restrictions related to indoor mask-wearing, restrictions on gatherings and inspections at the country’s ports of entry.

The decision to lift the measures followed a drop in reported daily Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, and increased natural immunity in the population.

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Motshekga said Thursday the Ministry of Basic Education supports lifting the remaining health regulations. However, students and staff who choose to wear face masks at school can still do so.

“Consistent with this decision to lift the regulations, the wearing of face masks by learners in classrooms and indoor gatherings is no longer required.

“Those learners and staff who wish to continue wearing a face mask in schools are allowed to exercise that option,” Motshekga said in a statement.

The minister added that her department continues to support vaccination of all students aged 12 and over, with parental consent.

1.9 million children vaccinated

Speaking at a press conference in Pretoria on Thursday, Phaahla said that as of June 22, 2022, 36,700 million vaccine doses had been administered to 20.09 million adults and 1.9 million children aged 12 to 17.

That meant an average of 50.48% (about 22 million) of South Africans had received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

“We welcome the high participation of the over 60 age group who are at risk with a participation rate of 70.5% and the next highest risk group of 50-59 year olds with a participation rate of 66.17%.

“We believe that the large participation of the over-50 age group has contributed enormously to reducing the severity of hospitalizations and mortality in the fourth wave and continues to this day,” said Phaahla.

The Free State was the best-performing province in terms of the number of people stung, covering 60% of its adult population.

The Western Cape was 57.37%, Limpopo 57%, Eastern Cape 54.53% and the North Cape 51.45%.

In Gauteng Province, along with KwaZulu-Natal, 5.4 million people were vaccinated 47.8%. The North West and Mpumalanga achieved less than 50% coverage.

Phaahla warned that lifting Covid-19 restrictions does not mean the virus no longer exists.

“It’s still in our midst, we’re just stronger than before, particularly with vaccinations, and we’re calling on those who aren’t yet vaccinated to come forward and those due for a booster call to come forward as well .

“The vaccination program will remain in place and will now be integrated into the normal health care system.”

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