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01 Apr 2020 | 07:32 PM UTC

South Africa: Security forces forcibly disperse crowds in Cape Town and Johannesburg April 1 amid COVID-19 lockdown /update 5

Security forces disperse crowds in Cape Town and Johannesburg on April 1, and hospital-worker demonstrators in Welkom (Free State province) March 31, amid coronavirus lockdown measures; further protests possible



Security forces dispersed crowds gathered around supermarkets with rubber bullets and water cannons on Wednesday, April 1, to enforce coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown measures implemented on Thursday, March 26. Additionally, on Tuesday, March 31, security forces used rubber bullets to disperse a hospital-worker demonstration in Welkom (Free State province), wounding two nurses; the health care workers organized the protest to denounce the cost of transportation. Nearly 20,000 police and soldiers have been deployed to maintain order and ensure people are respecting the lockdown measures in place, which is slated to remain in place for at least 21 days from Thursday, March 26. Under the restrictions, individuals are required to remain in their homes and only travel for medical purposes, to buy food, or to collect welfare payments.

Similar clashes are possible in South Africa over the coming weeks. As of April 1, over 1300 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in South Africa, as well as five associated deaths. Further international spread of COVID-19 is to be expected over the near term.


The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia. 


Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.

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