South Africa: What Measures Can Govt Legally Take to Deal With the Coronavirus?

South Africa's President Cyril Ramphosa announcing "urgent and drastic measures" to combat Coronavirus.
analysis

Drastic measures are necessary to slow the spread of Covid-19 in South Africa.

Some of the necessary measures will limit the rights of individuals, thus implicating the provisions of the Bill of Rights, including the rights to privacy, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. As long as these limitations are sourced in law, based on evidence and proportionate, the limitation of rights will be justified. However, measures not based on available medical evidence and sound public health principles run the risk of stigmatising individuals or entire communities and may not pass constitutional muster.

The South African government could take several drastic steps to try to slow the spread of the Covid-19 in the country. While it is important for the government to continue to provide clear, consistent, and accurate information about the virus to educate and inform the public, this alone will not be sufficient. Other measures that will severely limit the rights of individuals may also be necessary.

First, the government could limit or prohibit inward travel to South Africa from identified hotspots - something done by countries like the United States when it was far too late to have a real impact. Second, it...

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