Covid-19: Refusing to quarantine or self-isolate could land you in jail for a decade

18 March 2020 - 16:40 By Nonkululeko Njilo
Refusing to quarantine or self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 is now a criminal offence.
Refusing to quarantine or self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 is now a criminal offence.
Image: 123rf.com/thawornnurak

Anyone who refuses to quarantine or self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 can be prosecuted.

That's according to constitutional law expert Prof Pierre de Vos, who cautioned against this criminal act.  

At least 116 people in SA have tested positive for the virus as of Wednesday morning.

A family, including a mother and daughter who tested positive for Covid-19, was tracked down by police and returned to a health facility in Gauteng on Tuesday after refusing  quarantine.

The provincial health department went to court to ensure the family were quarantined.

Six passengers on the AIDAmira cruise ship, which set sail from Walvis Bay in Namibia on Friday and arrived off Cape Town on Sunday, were on the same flight as a sailor who has since shown coronavirus symptoms. The passengers had to be tested for Covid-19, while the rest of the 1,700 passengers and crew on board were trapped until the results were revealed.

Health MEC Bandile Masuku took action based on regulations related to the surveillance and the control of notifiable medical conditions in the National Health Act, passed in 2017.

The regulations state that a health care provider who diagnoses a patient with a notifiable medical condition must report the medical condition within 24 hours of diagnosis to facilitate the implementation of public health measures and a response.

De Vos said everyone had an obligation to get tested and if results returned positive, the courts could intervene.

“If you refuse to test, isolate or quarantine, it’s considered a breach of guidelines and a criminal offence. You can be prosecuted and handed a harsh sentence of up to 10 years,” he said.   

People who test positive also have an obligation to alert authorities about who they have come in contact with, he added.

According to the regulations, “a person who has been in contact with a case or carrier of a notifiable medical condition must also subject himself or herself to the medical examination ... The need, nature and extent of the intervention must be assessed, based on the nature of the public health risk and the particular circumstances of the individual.” 


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