Spreading false news about the pandemic can be punished with up to six months in prison
CAPE TOWN – The Democratic Alliance (DA) health spokeswoman on Monday laid criminal charges against a man for disseminating a video in which he claims that South Africans risked being infected with Covid-19 by health care officials testing people for the virus.
Siviwe Gwarube brought the charges in terms of the provision of the Covid-19 disaster management regulations that makes disseminating false information on the pandemic, with the intention to deceive, a criminal offence.
“Laying these criminal charges is meant to send a strong message to South Africans that the spreading of fake news will not be tolerated,” Gwarube said.
The author of the video claims that test swabs used by health care officials conducting door-to-door testing are possibly contaminated with the novel coronavirus and urges South Africans to refuse to be tested. The video was posted on Facebook.
Gwarube said the video was widely shared on Sunday and caused panic on the eve of the roll-out of the government’s mass community screening project. It was therefore crucial to act to prevent it from undermining a part of the government’s efforts to contain the spread of the disease.
“The department of health needs to reach people where they are in order to screen them and refer them to the nearest health facility for full testing. It is not true that the community health workers will use swabs or draw blood. Their work is to screen those South Africans who may be showing symptoms and to bring the services closer to where they are,” she said.
Furthermore, mass screening is also meant to determine whether people’s conditions allow them to self-isolate or whether they need to be isolated in government facilities.
“This will assist those South Africans who live in densely populated informal settlements and cannot afford to self-isolate and protect their loved ones from further spread.
“Turning people against this measure is destructive and criminal.”
Gwarube said the video appears to be intended to deceive people, and should therefore fall within the ambit of the regulations.
“It is important that the South African Police Service investigate this matter without delay.”
In terms of the regulations, spreading false news about the pandemic can be punished with up to six months in prison.
– African News Agency