South Africa’s Police Minister Bheki Cele warned on Friday that anyone who disregards the recently released COVID-19 state of disaster regulations would be arrested and face the full might of the law.
Section 10 of the regulations empowers the Minister of Police to issue directions to address, prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in all police stations and holding cells.
“I have directed the management of the South African Police Service to implement measures that will see all members, particularly those who are in close contact with different communities and who visit our police stations, be provided with maximum protection against possible infection,” said the Minister at a joint press briefing in Pretoria.
Cele said the police have already procured protective gloves and hand sanitisers for police stations and holding cells. In addition, urgent procurement processes are underway to ensure adequate supplies to all community service centres.
“I’ve instructed the SAPS management to see to it that the members on the ground are provided for and at the same time ensure that everyone on duty complies with COVID-19 hygiene protocols as a matter of urgency,” Cele said.
Police presence at establishments in South Africa
When coming to the enforcement of the regulations, police were in the process of appointing spotters who will be keeping an eye on the 19 971 taverns, 11 000 bottle stores, 9 747 restaurants and 2 518 night clubs across the country.
“As from today, police are appointing spotters, they’ll be in these places, especially the areas that sell food and alcohol. At 6pm, [the] selling and consumption of alcohol shuts down, but in places where there’s the sale of food, [such as] restaurants and food selling taverns, that continues.
“If you buy your bottle at 5:55pm, you can’t finish it where you are having your food. You will have to take it home,” he said.
Should these establishments be found to have over 50 patrons at a time, police will not be shy to disperse the excess patrons.
Cele said should there be over 50 patrons, the owners and event organisers will be arrested.
Even though this was not in the gazetted regulations, Cele said police were calling on establishments to have a register of customers visiting them. This would aid in tracing individuals should the need arise.
Such a mechanism will help authorities should a patron later test positive for the Coronavirus.
He reiterated that police will not be granting special permits for events to have a gathering of more than 100 people at a time.
“So there’s no need for you to go to any police station to ask for permission from police. You will keep to 100, whether it’s weddings, a funeral or any other [gathering]. There shall be no street bashes [nor] public drinking which is nonetheless illegal,” he said.
Video footage of a crowd singing – taken at uShaka – caused concern in SA, but officials said the video was taken before President Ramaphosa announced the new regulations.
— Sinethemba_Mathonsi (@Sneh_Enhle) March 15, 2020
Visits to police stations, enrolment
The Minister urged the public to avoid police station walk-ins and only go when necessary. These include visits for document certification, police clearance certificates, fingerprint taking for firearm renewals.
The public, he said, will be sanitised as they walk into the various stations.
During this period, the police enrolment of 7 000 trainees will be suspended until further notice.
Minimising risk of contracting COVID-19 in South Africa
Meanwhile, those being taken into detention will be scanned for COVID-19 symptoms and no visits will be allowed at police cells until further notice.
With the number of people at home anticipated to rise, the SAPS will be sharpening its Family Violence and Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units so as to ensure that domestic violence and abuse cases are addressed sufficiently.
The Minister emphasised that the aim of implementing the law and was not to punish the public but a measure to curb the spread of COVID-19.
He warned that faith-based organisations who have pronounced their intentions to defy the regulations would be closed down and their leaders arrested. – SAnews.gov.za
WATCH Carte Blanche on Sunday, 22 March 2020: How Seriously Are We Taking COVID-19?
On Sunday, current affairs show Carte Blanche investigates how much is getting done to prevent a massive spike in infections in South Africa; and tracks some of the first patients to have contracted the highly contagious COVID-19 virus. Watch in SA on DStv Now or stream it from Tuesday if you’re overseas (in most countries).