Following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech on Sunday evening, 15th of March 2020, the state published new regulations related to Covid-19, in terms of the Disaster Management Act on 18 March 2020.
The rules about gatherings and premises selling liquor have been widely reported on. However, the regulations also use criminal sanctions in an attempt to curb the spreading of incorrect information about Covid-19. A person who publishes any statement, through any medium, including social media, with the intention to deceive any other person about Covid-19, the Covid-19 infection status of any person, or any measure taken by the government to address Covid-19, commits an offence and is liable to a fine, or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or to both the fine and the imprisonment.
South Africans would do well to verify information which they receive through social media channels, and avoid re-posting or forwarding information which they have not properly verified. Additionally, a person who misrepresents that they are infected with Covid-19, or that any other person is infected, is guilty of an offence, and is liable to a fine, or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or to both the fine and the imprisonment.
Most importantly, a person who intentionally exposes another person to Covid-19 may be prosecuted for an offence, including assault, attempted murder or murder.