On 15 March the South African government declared a national state of disaster.  In order to contain the spread of COVID-19 (“the virus”) which is now a global pandemic, strict new measures have been introduced through Regulations issued in terms of the Disaster Management Act.

Here are some to the point Q & A’s of the new Regulations:

MAY I REFUSE MEDICAL EXAMINATION, ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE?

No. If it is suspected that you have the virus, or if you have been in contact with someone who is infected, or if you were tested positive you have to submit to a medical examination, or to be submitted to a health facility, quarantine or isolation to receive treatment and to prevent further transmission.  Should you refuse, you may be detained in quarantine for 48 hours until a warrant can be issued to enforce a medical examination.

WILL WE BE PROTECTED FROM PANIC-BUYING?

Yes.  The Minister of Trade and Industry may issue regulations to protect consumers from excessive, unfair or unreasonable pricing of goods and services during this time and to maintain the consumer’s security and availability of the supply of goods and services.  This includes the right to limit the purchase of certain items per consumer.

IF I TESTED POSITIVE FOR COVID-19, DO I HAVE TO STAY IN QUARANTINE?

Yes.  Any person who intentionally exposes another person to the virus may be prosecuted for assault, attempted murder or murder.  Any person who further intentionally misrepresents that he or any other person is infected, or any person who publishes fake news regarding the virus (including on social media), is guilty of an offence and may be liable to a fine or imprisonment. 

WILL THE SALE OF ALCOHOL BE AFFECTED?

Yes.  All premises where liquor is sold and consumed on-site (including restaurants and clubs), must be closed with immediate effect.  Where there is adequate space available and all regulations regarding hygienic conditions and limitation of exposure to the virus is adhered to, such premises may remain open, provided that no more than 50 people may be present at any time.  All on-consumption and off-consumption (liquor stores) premises must close at 18h00 during weekdays and Saturdays and 13h00 on Sundays and public holidays.  Practically this means that restaurants will have to stop serving alcohol at the stated times to comply with this Regulation.

MY FRIEND IS GETTING MARRIED – CAN THEY PROCEED WITH THE WEDDING?

The number of guests will determine whether the gathering is lawful.  In order to contain the spread of the virus, any gathering of more than 100 people is currently prohibited.  The assembly of more than 50 persons at premises where liquor is sold and consumed is further also prohibited and all persons refusing to adhere to these regulations may be arrested and imprisoned for up to 6 months.

WHEN WILL THINGS RETURN BACK TO NORMAL?

All schools and partial care facilities must remain closed until 15 April 2020, but this period may be extended for the duration of the national state of disaster.  A national state of disaster lasts 3 months, but can be cut short at any time or extended one month at a time by the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.  It remains to be seen whether a state of emergency will be declared in terms of section 37 of the Constitution.

Carla Geldenhuys

carla@vwvh.co.za

Senior Associate: Conveyancing & Commercial Contracting