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Jail terms, hefty fines for Covid violators

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

ANYONE who flies in and out of the country in violation of the current ban on international travel will be fined M50 000 or be jailed for three years, Health Minister, Motlatsi Maqelepo, has said.

The fines and jail terms are among new measures published by Mr Maqelepo as the government seeks to clamp down on people who contravene the Covid-19 lockdown regulations.

The measures, gazetted late last week, also contain various fines and jail terms for ordinary people and business owners who violate other Covid-19 lockdown regulations.

They have been introduced in the wake of Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’ last Tuesday announcement of a nationwide lockdown to fight the exponential increase in Covid-19 infections and deaths in the country.

Dr Majoro said as part of measures to stem the rising tide of infections, the country would from 14 January 2021 be placed in the red category of restrictions. This means that the country’s borders have now been shut down and cross-border travel is expressly prohibited except for essential services and returning residents. The situation will be reviewed on 27 January 2021, he said.

There are even stricter restrictions on inter and intra-district travel with people expected to observe a curfew from 7pm until 6am.

In the wake of the imposition of the lockdown, Minister Maqelepo published a gazette outlining fines and jail terms including a M50 000 fine and/or a three-year jail term for travelling by air in violation of the current ban on air travel.

According to the regulations, Moshoeshoe I International Airport and all airports shall be closed and travel using commercial and private aircrafts is suspended for the duration of the lockdown.

“A person who contravenes regulation 3(4) (on the ban on air travel) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding M50 000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years or both,” the gazette states.

Apart from the ban on air travel, international road travel is also banned as is inter- district travel. The only exceptions are for pressing issues such as travel by people employed in essential services or patients requiring medical services.

Most businesses have also been closed and only essential services such as food stores, health facilities and media houses are allowed to operate during the lockdown.

However, strict health precautions have to be observed with shop managers required to ensure that customers wear masks, are sanitised and maintain physical distancing to reduce the chances of spreading infections.

According to the gazette, an owner, a manager or person in charge of a business who either fails to enforce the safety measures or fails to observe set operating hours and inflates prices of goods “commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding M10 000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two months or both”.

“An owner, a manager or person in charge of a business who sells alcoholic beverages during the lockdown commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding M20 000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or both.

“In addition, a business or enterprise which contravenes these regulations shall have its operating licence suspended for the duration of the lockdown.”

Anyone found guilty of hoarding medical supplies to combat Covid-19 is liable to a fine of M20 000 or a two-year jail term or both.

Any individual who spreads false information about Covid-19 is liable to an M5 000 fine or one month in jail or both.

A person who refuses to be screened or tested for the virus can be fined M5000 or be jailed for a month or both.

A person who tests positive for Covid-19 but refuses to be quarantined can be fined up to M20 000 and be sent into compulsory quarantine.

Anyone who presents a fake Covid-19 test certificate and anyone who facilitates the issuance of fake Covid-19 test certificates “commits fraud and may be detained or arrested, subject to the Criminal Evidence and Procedure Act of 1981”.

Anyone who intentionally or maliciously damages a drone that transports Covid-19 specimens is liable to a fine of up to M20 000 or two years’ imprisonment or both.

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