Photo Credit: GCIS.
Police minister Bheki Cele said that the SAPS will doggedly enforce the new lockdown level 3 regulations, focusing on people walking around without masks, wandering around after curfew, and trying to move alcohol.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Monday (28 December) that South Africa would move to lockdown level 3 with immediate effect, in a bid to curb the alarming rise in Covid-19 infections in the country.
Ramaphosa said that the move aims to limit super-spreader events further, and will adjust previous level 3 regulations to keep the economy as open as possible.
It will also allow government to focus on the social distancing measures, and aims to ease the pressure on hospitals and health workers.
The change follows meetings held by the president and his cabinet as part of the National Coronavirus Command Council on Sunday, and come as the country surpasses 1 million cumulative Covid-19 infections and record daily increases.
A further 7,458 new cases were recorded on 28 December, taking the cumulative total since the start of the pandemic to 1,011,871. The country has reported 27,071 deaths from the virus, according to the latest data from the Department of Health.
"We have let down our guard, and unfortunately we are now paying the price," Ramaphosa said. “We can only weather this storm if we immediately and fundamentally change our mindsets."
The announcement was followed by the gazetting of regulations on Tuesday by Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and an update on the state of the virus in the country by health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Under the regulations, alcohol sales have again been banned, to decrease the number of trauma cases in South African hospitals, Mkhize said. Another notable change is that it is now a criminal offence in South Africa to not wear a mask in a public space.
If a person is caught not wearing a mask in public, they could face a fine or be arrested – and upon conviction, could be put in prison for six months.
Cele welcomed the decision to make non-mask wearing an offence, saying that police have been struggling for a long time to get people to wear their masks. He said that people need to know that there are consequences for violating the regulations, and "the SAPS will not waste the opportunity" to present them.
"If you are not wearing a mask (in public), you will definitely be arrested. We will fine you and we will arrest you," he said.
"Keep a mask on at all times in public places, or else you will become a client of the South African Police. You will unfortunately get a criminal record. These are the consequences."
Masks need to cover the nose and mouth.
The minister said that, regarding alcohol, the SAPS will also clamp down on violations. He stressed that any movement of alcohol, outside of the regulations, will not be allowed.
He said that the SAPS will also come down hard on curfew violators.