Since South Africa was placed under lockdown four days ago, police officers are facing three counts of murder and other serious charges as a result of their alleged use of excessive force.
The number of deaths, allegedly at the hands of a metro police officer and at least two police officers, is equal to that of people who have died from the novel coronavirus.
Currently, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) is investigating three cases of murder, among others, against law enforcement officers in Gauteng and the Western Cape.
IPID spokesperson Sontaga Seisa said they were investigating two cases of murder in the Western Cape and one in Gauteng.
eisa added the three victims died as a result of police action.
In the Western Cape, the IPID has also opened a rape case against an officer.
“Since the inception of the Covid-19 lockdown, the IPID has taken a proactive approach and ensured that its services continue to be rendered to all the deserving citizens of South Africa while the country is fighting the dangerous coronavirus,” said Seisa.
He added it had no mandate to investigate members of the SA National Defence Force.
Seisa said by Monday morning, it had received 21 complaints against police officers.
Apart from a murder case registered in Gauteng, the IPID is also investigating six cases of discharging of firearms, three of assault and one of corruption in the province.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced government will roll out a comprehensive screening, testing, tracing and medical management programme in the coming days as the number of people infected with Covid-19 increased to 1 326.
Ramaphosa made this announcement in an address to the nation on Monday evening.
He also said that the number of deaths in South Africa as a result of the pandemic had increased to three as he continued to plead with the nation to take the deadly disease seriously.
Around 10 000 field workers will be visiting homes in villages, towns and cities to screen residents for Covid-19 symptoms, he announced.
People with symptoms will be referred to local or mobile clinics for testing, while those who are found to be infected but experiencing mild symptoms will remain in isolation at home or at a government-run facility, he said.
These acts were in direct contrast with the orders Ramaphosa had given SANDF members and police last Thursday before they were deployed.
“We have never experienced a situation like this before and a number of mistakes will be made, but we ask for our people’s understanding that all this is being done for the good of everyone.
“We will continue to correct the mistakes wherever they are made, but I am convinced that we will succeed, because we will take this coronavirus threat seriously, we will adapt as a society and we will all act responsibly,” he said.
He added that if the country worked together, South Africa would beat the disease
“Those with severe symptoms will be transferred to hospitals. Using mobile technology, an extensive tracing system will be rapidly deployed to trace those who have been in contact with confirmed coronavirus cases and to monitor the geographical location of new cases in real time,” the president said.
‘Act within the law’
“This drive is far-reaching, it is intensive and it is unprecedented in scale.”
Thanking those within the state’s essential services, which include the security cluster of police and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), he cautioned that government had made it clear that their task was that of supporting, reassuring and comforting the nation
Over the past few days, a hashtag has begun trending in the United States as doctors in New York in particular find themselves overrun by patients suffering and dying from Coronavirus.
#WhereisthePPE show doctors and nurses on the frontline using black rubbish bags, patient gowns, bandanas and pretty much anything else they can MacGyver together to make themselves Personal Protective Equipment to ensure they don’t catch the virus themselves.
The shortage of PPE in the US has become a massive concern. There are simply not enough medical masks and protective equipment for everyone.
The more health care workers there are that contract the virus, the more capacity drops which makes it so much harder to #flattenthecurve as we have all been trying to do.
In Italy, worst hit by the pandemic, 61 doctors have died from the virus.
Medical workers have largely been left to deal with the outbreak without adequate supplies of PPE, reportedly only equipped with masks, scrubs, gloves and hairnets.
The President of the medical association there said doctors were being sent to “war unarmed”.
“The dead do not make a noise. Yet, the names of our dead friends, our colleagues, put here in black and white, make a deafening noise,” said Filippo Anelli.
Fortunately in South Africa, we have had the benefit of learning from those countries that have been worse hit ahead of us. Time is the greatest commodity of all when fighting a pandemic of this scale.
Our government knows full well that we need PPE and lots of it.
The National Treasury has moved to purchase masks and other essential supplies on an emergency basis.
It issued an instruction note last week, telling accounting officers how the procurement of hundreds of thousands of masks, gloves, face shields, protective suits and a range of other medical equipment should be undertaken.
On Monday, the Solidary Fund announced by President Ramaphosa last week, reported that it has raised over R500 million from corporates, government and individuals who have donated their own money.
The fund has made R100 million available as working capital to urgently fund the purchase of critical medical supplies to protect health workers. R52 million of this will go towards purchasing five million surgical masks.
Officials are scrambling to get supplies but this is a global problem and the difficulty is going to be with international suppliers and importing through closed borders.
We are already hearing from doctors in both public and private hospitals dealing with Covid-19 patients, that they are beginning to worry about PPE running out.
A panicked public has been stealing, stashing and misusing masks and gloves.
In some instances, cleaners have misused them. Medical professionals I know have been posting about how they’re using file dividers to make face screens. They’ve posted pictures of the one mask they have been reusing every day for an entire week.
Many have bought their own PPE at exorbitant inflated prices.
While anecdotally the situation on the ground is ominous, the Gauteng Health Department’s Kwara Kekana says that for now there is enough PPE.
“We are continuously procuring to ensure that facilities, where needed, they get. We have been receiving stock of PPE and sending to facilities. There is a global shortage of certain items that we are working around the clock to source.”
Management seem to be comfortable with the current stock situation but the doctors are not. They fear imminent shortages. That means their lives will be in danger.
In the Western Cape, provincial health minister Nomafrench Mbombo is appealing to the public not to waste PPE and to ensure it gets to where it is needed most.
“Wearing a mask or gloves when going to the supermarket or pharmacy to buy essentials, is ineffective, unnecessary, and will not protect you from the coronavirus.
“In fact, it spreads the virus faster because it makes you a carrier from one person to another, it also gives false security that you don’t need to wash or sanitise your hands. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a scarce commodity and should be used appropriately and by the appropriate people. If you are not ill and not in close contact with someone who has coronavirus, you do not need to wear a mask or gloves.”
On Monday, Business for SA’s Public Health Workgroup also issued a call to all companies, especially those in lockdown, to urgently divert their stocks of PPE for use in the national healthcare sector.
“The PPE is critically needed to protect frontline doctors and healthcare workers, and to keep them healthy in their fight against the pandemic,” said the organisation.
But beyond the physical well-being of our medical staff, we also need to worry about how they are going to get through the next few weeks as cases are expected to surge.
We hope they won’t and the lockdown will be effective, but an increase in numbers is inevitable.
Writing in the New York Times this week, Jennifer Senior commented that we shouldn’t underestimate the moral anguish of making life and death calls, like deciding who gets a ventilator.
“This is the moment to pray for the psychological welfare of our health care professionals. In the months ahead, many will witness unimaginable scenes of suffering and death, modern Pietàs without Marys, in which victims are escorted into hospitals by their loved ones and left to die alone.
“I fear these doctors and nurses and other first responders will burn out. I fear they will suffer from post-traumatic stress. And with the prospect of triage on the horizon, I fear they will soon be handed a devil’s kit of choices no healer should ever have to make. It’s a recipe for moral injury.”
Doctors I know are already making immense sacrifices, leaving their families behind, to treat the most vulnerable in hospitals. It’s going to get harder and harder for them.
We have to ensure that those at the frontlines in this silent war are cared for as well, as they are
Coronavirus morning update: SA’s third death, more lockdown arrests, and lessons in containment
Your latest coronavirus news: A third death was recorded in SA, in the Free State; more than 200 arrests in the North West for breaking lockdown rules; and how these three countries have managed to contain their Covid-19 infections.
The Gauteng Department of Health has confirmed that five people in Alexandra are under quarantine after coming into contact with a man who tested positive for Covid-19.
The man ignored an instruction to remain in isolation, pending the confirmation of his test results, and travelled to Limpopo before the start of the national lockdown last week.
He was traced to Limpopo, where he is currently being held in isolation at a health facility, said the department in a statement on Monday.
“The people in quarantine are awaiting their results.
“All known close contacts have already been identified, tested, and are in quarantine pending results. Our tracing team will continue to work on the tracking and tracing of other possible contacts.
“We are urging communities to take heed of the lockdown measures and act responsibly, so that together we can contain and prevent the further spread of Covid-19,” read the statement.Two pensioners died on the first day of social grant payments on Monday under the 21-day lockdown in Pimville, Soweto, and Hammersdale in KwaZulu-Natal.
Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said she was saddened to learn about the deaths.
“I express my deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the departed. Both of them were confirmed to be social grant beneficiaries at the time of their passing and I have instructed Sassa to process their payments without any delays.”
Zulu has directed social workers to provide psycho-social support services to their families.
She appealed to social grant beneficiaries to comply with the lockdown regulations by using their Sassa and post office cards at local retailers to avoid long queuesMore than 200 people have been arrested in the North West for contravening lockdown regulations.
This after the country went into a 21-day lockdown that was ordered by President Cyril Ramaphosa to curb the coronavirus from spreading.
North West Department of Community Safety and Transport Management spokesperson Alpheus Koonyaditse said the suspects had contravened Disaster Management Act regulations.
“The suspects were arrested for failing to confine [themselves] to their residential places, while others were arrested for moving between metropolitan and district areas as well as misrepresenting that another person was infected with Covid-19.
“Others were arrested for failing to close liquor premises and some for failing to adhere to the Germans could soon be issued with ‘immunity certificates’ which will allow them to leave the country’s coronavirus lockdown earlier than the rest of the population if they test positive for antibodies to the virus.
States across Germany are currently in lockdown with strict quarantines imposed in some parts of the country.
However, German Researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig soon plan to send out hundreds of thousands of antibody tests over the coming weeks which could allow many thousands of people to break free of the lockdowns, Der Spiegel magazine reported.
The tests are designed to detect whether an individual has developed antibodies to Covid-19, indicating that they have at one time been a carrier and built up immunity.
A positive test could allow individual Germans to leave the lockdown, or allow the national government to ease restrictions in areas where so-called “herd immunity” has been developed.
“Those who are immune could be given a type of vaccination card that, for example, allows them to be exempted from [Coronavirus-related] restrictions on their work,” Gerard Krause, the epidemiologist leading the project, told the magazine.
An investigation by a team from the department of economic development, tourism and environmental affairs led to the rescue of 14 workers, who were locked in a Durban factory and made to produce masks in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and the arrest of the factory owner on Sunday.
Several consumer complaints against a Durban business resulted in the arrest of the owner and the rescue of 14 workers who were locked in a factory and forced to make masks for six days.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs Nomusa Dube-Ncube said that she was furious after hearing about the report back by officials tasked to investigate a complaint she received on Sunday.
“No amount of words could ever describe my anger following a shocking report I have just received from officials I assigned to investigate a complaint I received early this morning.
“This is in connection to more than 14 employees who have been locked up in a factory since Monday last week. They were forced to manufacture hundreds of masks to meet the demand caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus.”
Dube-Ncube said during recent visits to various retail shops and pharmacies, they discovered that some people were being forced to pay R780 for a single mask.
“Regarding this morning’s complaint, we are encouraged by messages of public disapproval of the blatant disregard of the laws of the country by the owners of a Chinese company Chen Lu located in Glen Anil, Durban.”
She said inspectors from the department’s Consumer Protection Unit, who are investigating complaints of the violation of consumer rights and price hikes, have saved more than 14 workers who were subjected to inhuman conditions.