Coronavirus: South Africa deploys 70,000 troops to enforce lockdown


More than 70,000 extra troops will be deployed in South Africa to help enforce a lockdown intended to stop the spread of coronavirus, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced.

South Africa has had 3,465 confirmed coronavirus cases – second only to Egypt in Africa – and 58 deaths.

The country has some of the most stringent coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the world.

But security forces have struggled to enforce them.

Since 27 March only essential service providers, such as health workers, financial services providers, journalists and retail workers, are allowed to continue going to work.

Businesses that provide essential services have been applying for a special permit from the government that allows their members of staff to go outside.

The restrictions include no jogging outside, no sales of alcohol or cigarettes, no dog-walking, no leaving home except for essential trips and prison or heavy fines for law-breaking.

Heavy handed security forces

After the ban on alcohol, there was a wave of looting of liquor shops.

Some police officers have allegedly been involved in the illegal sale of alcohol – earlier this month police officers were arrested for buying alcohol and escorting pick-up trucks full of alcohol.

There has also been criticism of security forces taking heavy-handed, and potentially illegal, action against those caught breaking the rules, including the alleged beating to death of a man caught drinking in his own yard.

But evidence from the first fortnight of South Africa’s lockdown appears to show that it was able to cut and then stabilise the number of cases abruptly.

At a televised briefing earlier this month, the chair of the government’s advisory committee said South Africa’s success in halting an exponential rise in cases was unprecedented.

President Ramaphosa said he had decided to deploy an extra 73,180 soldiers in a letter addressed to parliament on Tuesday.

The lockdown restrictions currently apply until Thursday 30 April.