The New COVID-19-Related Crimes That Could Land You In Jail In SA
As COVID-19 (aka the novel coronavirus) positive cases continue to spike in South Africa, government-issued restrictions to limit the spread of the virus are getting tighter and non-compliance has some serious consequences.
On 18 March, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) set out the new restrictions and clearly outlined the consequences of not following them. These regulations have been issued in terms of the section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act of 2002.
What they’re basically saying is: “We’re taking this seriously, and if you’re not, we’re going to make sure you do!” Let’s take a look at what some of them are below:
While we know that gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited, COGTA also made it clear that gatherings of 50 people or more where liquor is sold and consumed is also prohibited. But that’s not the only liquor-related restriction outlined…
Now, every on-consumption premises selling liquor (from restaurants to clubs and taverns) must either close shop immediately or implement extremely strict hygiene and sanitation practices (while accommodating under 50 people).
They’re also not allowed to operate between 6pm and 9am on weekdays and Saturdays and 1pm to 9am on Sundays and public holidays. The same goes for liquor stores.
Anyone who contravenes these outlined regulations will be liable to a fine or imprisonment for up to six months, and depending on the issue, you could be liable for both.
Refusing medical attention/quarantine
While SA is in a national state of disaster, it’s also illegal to refuse obligatory medical attention if there is reasonable evidence to suggest that you might have COVID-19 or if you’ve tested positive for it.
“No person who has been clinically, or by a laboratory, confirmed as having COVID-19, or who is suspected of having contracted COVID-19, or who has been in contact with a person who is a carrier of COVID-19, may refuse consent to an enforcement officer for…” the document goes on to outline the following:
- Submission of that person to a medical examination, including but not limited to the taking of any bodily sample by a person authorised in law to do so.
- Admission of that person to a health establishment or a quarantine or isolation site or…
- Submission of that person to mandatory prophylaxis, treatment, isolation or quarantine or isolation in order to prevent transmission.
If the person is non-compliant, the issue will be taken to a magistrate, who will then assess the situation and grant a warrant (if the situation calls for it).
“No person is entitled to compensation for any loss or damage arising out any bona fide action or omission by an enforcement officer under this regulation,” the document clarifies.
Fake news and status disclosure
Fake news, or intentionally misrepresented information with regards to COVID-19, has been one of the biggest issues faced globally since the beginning of the rapid spread of the virus. Because of how quickly information, verified or not, can travel on the internet, this has posed a danger in limiting the spread of the virus.
Now any person who starts or spreads any false information about COVID-19 will be liable to a fine or imprisonment of up to six months. This is also true for anyone who intentionally misrepresents that “he, she or any other person is infected with COVID-19”.
“[Also,] any person who intentionally exposes another person to COVID-19 may be prosecuted for an offence, including assault, attempted murder or murder,” the document says.
You can read the document for yourself here.
While it’s unclear when a ‘cure’ for COVID-19 will be available, there have been several drug trials underway in different parts of the world. One of the most notable is a drug trial in China.
Zhang Xinmin, an official from China’s Science and Technology Ministry, said that an anti-flu drug called Favipiravir from Japan-based company Fujifilm Toyama Chemical (yep, it’s also the same company that makes cameras and printers) has assisted significantly in helping COVID-19 patients recover.
While the drug was approved in Japan in 2014 and has been used to treat patients with influenza, it was also used in 2016 for the Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea. Now, Chinese media reports that it received approval as an investigational therapy for COVID-19 infections.
One trial with the drug in China showed that the drug was able to shorten the recovery time of COVID-19 patients from 11 days to four days. It also didn’t have any alarming or obvious side effects.
“It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,” Zhang said in a statement.
Fujifilm is yet to comment on these claims and it’s still unclear at this stage if or when the drug will become available globally.