South African police accused two men of attempted murder for allegedly continuing to leave after they tested positive for the coronavirus, exposing others to infection.
Police Minister Bheki Cele announced the charges on Wednesday during a press conference detailing the application of a lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“If you violate these regulatory laws, you will be fined six months or both,” said Cele.
“Two people have already been charged … who deliberately moved out after they were instructed” not to do so, he warned.
“So it is not a fairy tale to say that the law will act and will be very hard on you.”
The first case was that of a 52-year-old salon owner diagnosed with coronavirus on March 18 and instructed to quarantine for at least 14 days.
Police spokesman Vish Naidoo said local officials raised the alert on Tuesday after the man was seen around the town of Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal province.
“He allegedly continued with his business … and in doing so he disregarded a doctor’s instructions,” said Naidoo, adding that the man had been arrested and taken to the hospital.
The second charge was brought against a male tourist who tested positive for COVID-19 while on vacation in Kruger National Park.
Naidoo said the man ignored instructions to stay at his hotel and went to the nearby city of Saint Lucia, where he interacted “with an unknown number of people”.
South Africa recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections on the continent, with 709 confirmed cases to date.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day block after the number of infections had multiplied six times in just eight days.
Only “essential” trips to supermarkets, pharmacies and medical appointments will be allowed during the blockade, which will be imposed by army troops.
“The simplest and best way to combat the spread of the coronavirus is to stay at home,” the police said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It is exactly this stubborn behavior that has caused us a national blockade.”