Minister of Police General Bheki Cele has warned that any church leader failing to comply with government regulations on limiting gatherings to curb the spread of Covid-19 will be arrested.

He also gave notice that spotters would be visiting clubs, restaurants and pubs across the country to ensure compliance with early-closure rules.

This came as the number of cases in South Africa rose to 202.

Cele said: ‘As of today, we are appointing spotters. Those spotters will be in those places, especially those places that sell food and alcohol.’

Police had recorded 19 971 taverns, 11 000 bottle stores, just over 9 000 restaurants and over 2 000 clubs in the country.

The Gauteng Department of Health obtained a court order to stop a church in Katlehong from going ahead with a service.

In the Free State, where five tourists who attended a church gathering tested positive, health officials are preparing to test almost 600 people who may have been in contact with the congregants. Of the five tourists, two are from Texas in the United States, two from Israel and one from France. They arrived in the country between 9 and 11 March to attend the church gathering.

In other virus-related news in South Africa:

  • Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula told a briefing last evening that shutting down flights into South Africa was not on the cards at the moment. Limits on travel were being implemented, but ‘if ever there will be a decision to “shutdown”, it will come from the President’. There was a threat of litigation, with the department being accused of imposing regulations which were at odds with the Constitution;
  • News24 reported that four people in quarantine at Durban’s Addington Hospital, who want to self-isolate because they have no symptoms, have instituted legal action because they want to go home;
  • The German government has sent four chartered aircraft to evacuate 1 243 German nationals on the AIDAmira cruise ship in Cape Town;
  • It was reported earlier yesterday that an intern in the Presidency was sent home ‘following possible coronavirus exposure’.

Globally:

  • The clampdown in Britain intensified, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night ordering cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants ‘to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not reopen tomorrow’. Nightclubs, cinemas and gyms would follow suit;
  • The death toll from the new coronavirus has passed 5 000 in Europe – the new epicentre of the pandemic – as both Germany and Spain reported a steep rise in infections;
  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all non-essential workers to stay at home as cases continued to rise. He also ordered a moratorium on all residential and commercial evictions for the next 90 days. Cuomo said: ‘Sixteen days ago, we were at zero. Today we are at 2 900. Those numbers are why we’re taking these actions.’;
  • Indian health expert Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan told the BBC that if the same mathematical models applied in the United States or United Kingdom were applied to India, the country could be dealing with about 300 million cases, of which about four to five million could be severe;
  • Governor of California Gavin Newsom ordered the state’s 40 million people to stay at home, and go out only if absolutely necessary – to get food, collect medicines, or care for a friend or relative;
  • Argentina imposed a nationwide lockdown, the first Latin American country to do so. Strict measures were being applied elsewhere across South America;
  • The United Kingdom asked retired medics to return to work, and the government was preparing a wage subsidy plan to protect jobs. The Catholic Church in Britain suspended all masses until further notice.

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