File picture: Matthew Jordaan/African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Matthew Jordaan/African News Agency (ANA)

Coronavirus: SA traffic officers mull suspending breathalyser tests

By Se-Anne Rall, Sihle Mlambo and Theolin Tembo Time of article published Mar 13, 2020

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Johannesburg - The Durban Metro Police have suspended the use of breathalysers during alcohol roadblocks as the country continues to grapple with coronavirus fears. 

The Johannesburg Metro Police Department said on Friday that it would be up to the motorist if they were willing to be breathalysed or not during roadblock operations. 

In the Cape, the Cape Town Metro Police said drink-driving operations would not be halted, but the traffic police said they would review the situation. 

Numerous attempts to get hold of Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s spokesperson failed. 

A spokesperson for the Road Traffic Management Corporation directed queries to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. 

Numerous attempts directed at the NICD’s spokesperson failed. 

Responding to an IOL query on Friday, Durban’s head of the metro police Commissioner Steve Middleton said operations would continue, but they would not be utilising the breathalyser. He said it was a decision that was not taken lightly. 

“As the legislated head of eThekwini / Durban Metro Police, I felt in the interests of both members of our service and the community at large to place an immediate moratorium on the use of alcohol breathalysers at all roadblocks. 

“This in no way negates the enforcement practice for the infringement of drunk driving and or driving under the influence, but reduces risk to life and limb we currently face aligned to the spread of the coronavirus," said Middleton. 

In Cape Town, Richard Bosman, the executive director for safety and security at the City of Cape Town, said operations for driving under influence would not be halted. 

“DUI (driving under influence) operations will continue in Cape Town, given the proliferation of drunk driving on our roads. However, in light of the health concerns that have emanated around Covid-19, we will review our processes,” he said on Friday.

In Johannesburg, JMPD spokesperson Wayne Minaar, said DUI operations would go on, but motorists who refused to be breathalysed would have their blood samples taken. 

Meanwhile, the Transnet National Ports Authority said foreign vessels entering local ports had to receive a clean bill of health (free pratique) from the Port Health Department, which would specify details of the last 10 ports the vessel had been to.  

“In particular, all vessels that have been at sea for less than 14 days will not be granted free pratique, in order to accommodate the typical incubation period and quarantine period of the virus. 

“Vessels at sea for more than 14 days will be granted free pratique as a normal procedure by Port Health. If any risks are identified, a vessel will be put under quarantine until it has been cleared. Once vessels are issued with free pratique, crews are permitted to go ashore in line with their vessel schedule,” said TNPA.

For staff, TNPA said it had suspended the requirement for employees to be subjected to biometric clocking and alcohol testing with immediate effect. 

“Access cards, however, will still be required to access areas. All supervisors, managers, payroll and human resources teams remain responsible to ensure that time and attendance correctly reflects the actual time that employees have worked. Where there is a suspected case of intoxication immediate action will be taken,” TNPA warned.

“To prevent the spread of infection, we are all urged to continue with hygienic practices in public and social environments because this is a public health issue. We will remain on high alert and will continue to review these measures,” said TNPA.

IOL

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