CORONAVIRUS DAILY DIGEST #41
Calls to mental health hotline double, special parole authorised and police behaviour under the parliamentary spotlight
Things changed overnight in South Africa on 15 March when the National State of Disaster was declared. Daily Maverick’s Daily Digest provides essential snippets of information about Covid-19 in the country. Read on to get the full picture.
Friday was a day of ministerial briefings.
As lockdown levels are lowered, more and more public services are expected to become available again and all government departments have plans in place to allow employees to return to work safely, said Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu during a briefing to lawmakers. As Greg Nicolson reports, he called on public servants to recognise their “higher calling” in returning to work during Level 4.
The conduct of the police was under the microscope, with both Minister of Police Bheki Cele and police watchdog IPID making remarks. As Marianne Merten writes, not all’s well.
Just under 19,000 “low-risk inmates” are to be released on parole to reduce prison populations during the Covid-19 outbreak, according to Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola. This is to ensure physical distancing and self-isolation in the country’s notoriously overcrowded jails. As Marianne Thamm writes, pension-fund fraudster J Arthur Brown will be among those released.
In Eastern Cape, the provincial department of health confirmed that 80 people, mostly seasonal farmworkers who returned to the province from Western Cape, had tested positive for Covid-19. Estelle Ellis writes that the travel occurred before the new rules on interprovincial travel, as allowed under Level 4.
About 20 Shoprite Checkers merchandisers who tested positive and spent two weeks in quarantine have been stopped from returning to work at the Bayside Mall in Tableview, Cape Town, by a branch manager. Vincent Cruywagen reports that the manager insists they must be tested before returning. However, private testing is expensive and the workers have been told by public healthcare staff that they cannot be retested.
Phone calls to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group have doubled during the lockdown, the NGO revealed on Thursday during a webinar hosted by Business4SA. People are struggling to cope with isolation, a sinking economy and perpetual uncertainty. As Estelle Ellis writes, participants in the webinar agreed that mental health needs to be given more attention in the conversation about the pandemic. DM
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