Approved Changes To Adjusted Alert Level 1 COVID-19 Restrictions

After a special Cabinet meeting was held on 31 January 2022, changes to the current Adjusted Alert Level 1 COVID-19 regulations were approved.

According to information gathered by the Department of Health, South Africa has exited the fourth wave of infections nationally, and the following changes have been made with immediate effect:

  • Individuals who test positive for COVID-19, but who do not display any symptoms of the virus, do not have to isolate.
  • Individuals who test positive for COVID-19, and who do display symptoms, are required to isolate.
  • The isolation period has been reduced from 10 days to 7 days.
  • Individuals who have been in contact with a COVID-19 positive person are only required to isolate if they display symptoms of the virus.
  • Primary, secondary and special schools will return to daily attendance.
  • The regulatory provision of the 1-meter social distancing rule in schools has been removed.

While it seems that life is returning to ‘normal’ again, apart from the wearing of masks and constant sanitizing, and people appear more relaxed, COVID-19 is not a thing of the past, and Government continues in its drive to promote vaccinations.

In this regard, in the preceding number of months, we have seen an increase in businesses that are implementing mandatory vaccinations, together with recent rulings regarding discipline for failing to adhere to the mandatory vaccination policies.

In the most recent CCMA ruling, dated 25 January 2022, the CCMA, in the matter of Gideon Kok v Ndaka Security and Services (FSWK2448-21) found that suspending an employee for refusing to be vaccinated was fair, and was further in line with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 85 of 1993 (OHSA).

Commissioner Petrus Venter, in the above-mentioned matter, emphasized the aim of the OHSA, i.e. for employees to take reasonably practicable measures to “specifically provide for the safety and health of employees with regards to … an attempt by the government to prevent and avoid work-related injuries and illnesses”.

It was held that enforcing mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations constitutes nothing less than a reasonable practical step that employers are obliged to take, and the CCMA ruled that the suspension of the employee for refusing to undergo a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination does not amount to an unfair labour practice, as provided for in section 186(2)(b) of the Labour Relations Act.

Similarly, in the matter of Theresa Mulderij v Goldrush Group (GAJB24054-21), the CCMA found that the employee had permanently incapacitated herself based on her refusal to undergo vaccination, and by implication, she refused to participate in creating a safe working environment, and accordingly, the employee’s dismissal was found to be substantively fair, and the matter was dismissed.

The OHSA compels employers to provide safe workplaces, and the requirement to undergo a COVID-19 vaccination is in the interests of the health and safety of all employees.