SANDF placed on standby over new projections of Covid-19 infection rates - reports
21 March 2020
Concerns have been raised that a national 'state of emergency' is on the cards following a high level meeting on Saturday between Treasury, the SA Reserve Bank and the SA Revenue Service on measures to shore up the economy, to protect small businesses and ordinary South Africans amidst predictions that there could be a huge spike in Covid-19 infections.
City Press has seen a Treasury memorandum titled Economic Response packages in which Treasury warns the state to do whatever it can to prevent the spread of the virus. On Saturday it was announced that the infection rate now stood at 240 positive cases. The Treasury communique speaks about the increasing pattern of internal transmissions.
Last Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a host of measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. This included the early closure of schools and the banning of gatherings of 100 or more people.
In a tweet on Saturday evening, Ramaphosa's spokesperson Khusela Diko said the National Command Council is meeting on Sunday to assess the implementation of the orders announced by the president last weekend. Thereafter, Ramaphosa is expected to brief the media on outcomes of the meeting.
According to the Sunday Times, the South African National Defence Force could be deployed to patrol the streets as restrictions are tightened to help stop the virus from spreading.
Sources told the City Press that all leave has been cancelled, and SANDF members have been told to return to their units to start preparing for short term deployment, after the defence force was placed on standby.
The Sunday Times, however, said that senior military officials have told the publication that SANDF does not have sufficient personal or equipment if a lockdown is implemented.
This was disputed by SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini who told the publication that the SANDF was waiting for the multi-disciplinary team leading government's response to say if there is a need for the defence force to enter.
"We will abide," he said.
News24 previously reported that before Ramaphosa announced stringent measures last week to combat the virus, he was told that a slow and inadequate response by government to the outbreak could result in anywhere between 87 900 and 351 000 deaths in South Africa and cause the health system to be overwhelmed.
News24 has seen the epidemiological projections prepared for the Department of Health and government that catapulted severe state action. These projections formed the basis of Ramaphosa's and Cabinet's plans to combat the coronavirus. It is understood that the model is a dynamic one, and is continuously being updated, adapted and rebuilt as new data becomes available.