South African military forces may be deployed to patrol the streets in a bid to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. This is according to a report in the Sunday Times.
The report stated that if there is a spike in coronavirus infections in the country, the army’s deployment would delay the need for a national lockdown.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told the Sunday Times that “if current restrictions do not limit the virus’s spread, the army will soon be patrolling the streets to enforce them”.
“We might have to begin to bring in the army to go out and work around the people, talk to them about hygiene, getting them to go sanitise, and so on,” said Mkhize.
This follows the health minister stating that between 60% and 70% of South Africans are likely to contract the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Mkhize added that while most South Africans will get the virus, only about 20% will be seriously ill.
As of 21 March, the number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in South Africa had risen to 240. This means that cases of the virus rose by 38 from the day before.
Military officials, however, stated in the report that the South African National Defence Force cannot afford a lockdown.
“The defence force, they said, has analysed its resources and found that it does not have sufficient personnel or equipment.”
The report added that “the military official said they would not be able to secure quarantine sites in districts across the country, would have to recall all soldiers deployed to the borders, and still the police would have to assist”.
The report stated that if current restrictions – which include travel bans and preventing gatherings of over 100 people – fail to stop the spread of the coronavirus, a subsequent national lockdown could be put in place. If a lockdown fails to stop the spread, a national “state of emergency” could be introduced.
“Mkhize said the government would gradually impose stricter measures as the virus spreads before the worst case of a national shutdown,” stated the report.
The government is also looking at area-specific lockdowns to “contain epicentres of the virus”.
“Once areas with uncontrolled outbreaks are identified, lockdowns will be applied before a countrywide lockdown,” stated the report.
Gauteng warns of lockdown
Gauteng Premier David Makhura has also warned that a national lockdown for South Africa may take place unless the coronavirus spread is contained.
Gauteng has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak and currently has 125 confirmed cases.
“A lockdown may just be where we are all headed and the decision to do so has to be made by our national leadership,” said Makhura.
“We will raise it with the President. We are watching these numbers very closely and we are worried,” said Makhura.