When and where you may still need to wear a mask in South Africa


On Wednesday June 22, Health Minister Joe Phaahla repealed several regulations under the surveillance and monitoring of notifiable medical conditions, ending the South African government’s mandate on masks.

However, Phaahla made it clear that masks may still be needed in private settings and the requirements are still at the discretion of business owners and event organizers.

“If you run an establishment, you have the right to determine the regulations – whether you run a store, a restaurant, a hotel – you can have your own regulations that you are comfortable with and that your customers are also happy with. “, did he declare. at a press conference on Thursday.

Phaahla added that this distinction applies to all individual entities – including schools. He noted that a school governing body can decide to keep its own mask mandates in place and that this is separate from the government’s own policies.

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A requirement at work

Because of this move to a private level, employees may still be required to wear masks in the workplace, says law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr.

He noted that the repeal of the regulations did not specifically address employers and their workplaces and that all employers still had a duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to provide , as far as reasonably possible, a safe working environment.

This is in line with the Code of Practice: Managing Exposure to SARS-COV-2 in the Workplace and the Hazardous Biological Agents Regulations, he said.

“In terms of HBA regulations, Covid-19 is classified as a group three hazardous biological agent. This poses a risk of an agent capable of causing serious human disease, which poses serious danger to those exposed, and which may pose a risk of community spread.

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“Where there is a risk of exposure to Covid-19 in the workplace, an employer should conduct a new risk assessment before determining whether employees are no longer required to wear masks and revise their plan of work.”

As part of the risk assessment, employers should ensure that an employee’s risk of exposure to Covid-19 is limited by appropriate workplace measures such as vaccinations, wearing masks , the practice of social distancing and disinfection, the firm said.

Such precautions may be necessary, especially in workplaces where the risk of transmission of Covid-19 is high, such as health care and mining.

In those workplaces, employers can still insist that employees continue to wear masks in the workplace, as part of their risk assessment, regardless of the latest regulations, he said.

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Where there is minimal risk of exposure to Covid-19 in a workplace, employees would not be required to wear masks. Notwithstanding this, employers should still encourage employees to continue taking necessary precautions such as social distancing and sanitizing to limit the transmission of Covid-19 in the workplace.

“The good news is that after more than two years of mask-wearing and isolated working conditions, we are moving towards a sense of normalcy. Stakeholders in the sports, entertainment and hospitality sectors will welcome the lifting of restrictions on gatherings and pray for a speedy economic recovery. With these new freedoms come responsibilities.

“We must ensure that we take the necessary precautionary measures to avoid the reintroduction of restrictive Covid-19 measures.”

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