DA lays criminal charges against 'contaminated Covid-19 test kits' poster
Durban - The DA has laid criminal charges against a man for creating and sharing a fake news post about Covid-19.
The video, in which the man claims that testing kits to be used by government were probably contaminated, went viral at the weekend.
It starts with the man speaking into the camera with an earbud lodged in his nostril. He then goes on to warn communities that swabs will be taken from them. However, he adds that the tools used to extract samples could be contaminated. He then urges people not to undergo the tests.
DA's health spokesperson, Siviwe Gwarube, said the charges were laid on Monday.
He said spreading fake news, as this person had done, was against the Covid-19 Disaster Management Regulation 11 (5) which prohibited and criminalised the spread of fake news pertaining to efforts of combating this pandemic. The regulations were clear that transgressors could be jailed for up to six months.
"Laying these criminal charges is meant to send a strong message to South Africans that the spreading of fake news will not be tolerated. The mass community screening which is being rolled out in various parts of South Africa are an important step towards understanding the true extent and reach of our local transmissions."
"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," Gwarube said.
He added that mass screening would also be the guide on whether people were able to self-isolate and whether they needed to be isolated in government provided facilities in order to stop the further spread of Covid-19.
"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.While this is not the first and possibly not the last case of fake news, it is critical that we make a stand against this destructive pattern. It is important that the South African Police Service investigate this matter without delay," he said.
Gwarube said further action would be taken against the man, believed to be from Western Cape, by colleagues at the City of Cape Town.
"We call on South Africans to be responsible at this time and to only share facts coming from reputable sources. This extends beyond members of the public. This also includes public representatives, news platforms and all other stakeholders. We cannot afford to be derailed by fake news in the fight against this pandemic," Gwarube said.