Two South Africans infected by the coronavirus have been arrested and charged with attempted murder after they allegedly refused to self-isolate even though they knew their status.
The unconventional charge was announced by Minister of Police, Bheki Cele on Wednesday at a press conference.
“Two people have been charged already… who deliberately moved around after they were told not to,” Cele was quoted as saying.
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The first of the two people, a 52-year old who owns a salon, was reportedly diagnosed COVID-19 on March 18 and asked to self-quarantine for at least 14 days.
The second person had been a tourist at the Kruger National Park. Police minister Cele added further stern warning for South Africans who would break the impending national lockdown.
“If you break these laws of regulations you are six months in or fined or both,” Cele said.
South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, at the beginning of the week, declared a state of emergency that will force the country into lockdown in order to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in Africa’s second-largest economy.
In a televised address, President Ramaphosa said the 21-day lockdown was needed “urgently and dramatically”. On Monday, South Africa surpassed Morocco as the African country with the highest number of confirmed cases of the deadly COVID-19.
A week ago, South Africa had 50 confirmed cases. That number is more than 400. “Immediate, swift and extraordinary action is required if we are to avoid human costs of this virus,” Ramaphosa told a country of over 56 million people.
He added: “The action we are taking now will have lasting economic costs. But we are sure that the cost of not acting now will be far greater.”
The president had earlier declared a state of national disaster last week. The state of emergency represents a recognition of advanced threat levels.