South Africa should immediately lift mask-wearing, venue capacity limits, and vaccine passes, the last remaining Covid-19-related restrictions, says the Institute of Race Relations (IRR).

In a statement, the IRR says theurgent need to get South Africa’s economy firing on all cylinders in the endemic phase cannot be overstated, with 55% of people aged 24 – 34 not in employment, education or training (NEET)’.

It notes thatHealth Minister Joe Phaahla proposed to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) on Monday that regulations which impose mask-wearing, venue capacity limits, and vaccine passes should be lifted. The NCCC, constituted by the Cabinet, will meet within the next two days to decide the country’s fate.

Says IRR Head of Campaigns Gabriel Crouse: “If people want to mask and vaccinate and avoid packed stadiums they are most welcome to do so. The notion that shutting down business to bend other people into the same mould has long been proven ineffective in a country where almost everyone has been infected. Freedom needs a comeback.”

The IRR says it has ‘collected over 15 000 signatures opposing these lockdown measures and submitted formal opposition to National Health Act regulations that aim to extend these restrictions. This opposition will be addressed afresh to every member of the Command Council.’

As predicted by medical experts reported by the IRR after the third wave, ‘a clear divorce between deaths and cases was followed by a relative flatlining of death numbers in South Africa. In traditional epidemiological terms, this means the country is in the “endemic” phase of Covid-19, which is likely to never end’.

‘Why is South Africa experiencing such low death numbers despite only one third of the population having been fully vaccinated?

‘A bloodbank study conducted in March found that almost 90% of South African donors had been previously infected. A further +-10% were vaccinated without any sign of previous infection, meaning that in total 98% obtained an immune boost against Covid-19. This study is still undergoing peer review.’

The IRR points out that ‘(contemporary) estimates by Discovery indicated that roughly a quarter of South Africa’s population was infected after the first wave, half after the second wave, and three quarters or even 80% after the third wave’.

‘A seroprevalence study headed by Professor Shabir Madhi at the end of last year indicated that three quarters of Gauteng’s population was infected before the Omicron wave, climbing to 80% for older members of the population.

‘The UK lifted all its lockdown measures when its scientific experts found that Covid-19 had become less deadly in that country than the flu, predominantly because of high vaccination rates. In March already Professor Madhi noted that “we’ve made similar sorts of estimates in South Africa”, predominantly because of high previous infection rates, which has been vindicated by subsequent experience of flatlining death numbers.’