Thursday, 23 June 2022 13:56

Motshekga supports repealing of the mask mandate for learners.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

The Department of Basic Education has confirmed that it will adjust its existing regulations to align with South Africa’s new regulations around mask-wearing and gatherings.

In a statement on Thursday (23 June), Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga said she supported the repealing of the mask mandate for learners and that the department will make regulatory changes to align itself with the new changes.

"In line with this decision to repeal the regulations, wearing of face masks by learners in classrooms, and indoor gatherings is no longer a requirement. Those learners and staff who wish to continue to wear a face mask in schools will be allowed to exercise this option, "said the minister.

She said the department will also continue to support the Covid-19 vaccination of all learners aged from 12 years, with parental consent.

The announcement comes after health minister Joe Phaahla repealed several Covid-19 regulations on Wednesday relating to the wearing of face masks, gatherings and persons entering the country.

The gazetting of the regulations means that the wearing of face masks in any public-use indoor space or when on public transport to contain the spread of Covid-19 has now fallen away.

People congregating in public spaces will no longer be limited to certain numbers. Requirements for entering and leaving the country have also been scrapped.

"We want to take this opportunity on behalf of all government to thank South Africans for their support and cooperation over the last two years and three months," Phaahla said in a media briefing on Thursday.

"While there was a lot of common ground and agreement even across political lives early in the pandemic when we all thought it would be short and over within a few months, the longer it took more fatigue and disagreements on strategy started to surface. We appreciate the fact that notwithstanding the disagreements even leading to threats or even actual court actions the mainframe of our collective action remained until today."

Meanwhile South African Democratic Union (Sadtu) spokesperson Nomusa Cembi said: "We are aware that our schools are overcrowded and we are still confronted with the issue of social distancing, which is not observed."

Basic Education has initiatives underway that will build more schools and increase classrooms in some schools to meet the high enrolment demand and put an end to overcrowded classrooms in its schools.

Cembi added that removing masks during winter could potentially lead to a surge in Covid-19 cases, as it is during winter that there are higher rates of illness, such as colds and flu.