South Africa acts to prevent ‘mass virus deaths’

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa took drastic measures to tackle coronavirus after epidemiological projections showed that between 87,900 and 351,000 people could die if the government did not act decisively, the respected News24 website reports.

The news site said projections from the Department of Health, which it had seen, showed that:

  • 87,900 people could die at an infection rate of 10%
  • 176,000 at an infection rate of 20%, and
  • 351,000 at an infection rate of 40%.

South Africa has detected 116 cases of coronavirus since the first patient – a South African who went on a skiing trip to Italy – was diagnosed with Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, about two weeks ago.

On Wednesday, the government announced that it would deploy law-enforcement officers across the country to ensure the public abides by stringent new measures introduced to curb the spread of the virus.

This includes the closure of all bars, restaurants, and clubs with immediate effect – unless they can keep the number of customers to 50 and ensure their venues meet hygiene standards.

Anyone who violated the order would be prosecuted, and fined or jailed for up to six months, the government said.

It also said that anyone who intentionally exposed others to Covid-19 could be arrested and prosecuted for assault, attempted murder or murder.

In a further measure, the government said it would be a crime for anyone suspected of having the virus, or who had been in contact with a carrier, to refuse to undergo medical tests, and to disobey orders to go into isolation or quarantine.