Wed | May 27, 2020

South Africa has 1st coronavirus deaths as lockdown begins

Published:Friday | March 27, 2020 | 9:42 AM
A deserted highway is seen in Cape Town, South Africa, Friday, March 27, 2020, after South Africa went into a nationwide lockdown for 21 days in an effort to mitigate the spread to the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A shaken South Africa on Friday announced its first two deaths from the coronavirus as the country’s cases rose above 1,000 and a three-week lockdown began, with some police screaming at the homeless on emptying streets.

The health minister said the deaths occurred in Western Cape province, home of Cape Town.

South Africa has the most virus cases in Africa, with the total across the continent now above 3,200.

Security forces with megaphones screamed at people shortly after midnight in downtown Johannesburg, the country’s commercial hub.

Homeless people scattered, looking for shelter, to the astonishment of residents who lined up on balconies and filmed the patrols with their mobile phones. One baton-wielding officer took chase.

Some motorists were pursued, stopped and searched. “Go home,” security forces shouted. “You cannot be outside ... You are so selfish.”

Around 3:00 a.m., sustained gunfire echoed through the streets.

South Africa’s military helped to enforce measures that include bans on sales of cigarettes and alcohol, even dog-walking.

Some feared the abuse of power.

In Rwanda, which imposed a lockdown over the weekend, police have denied that two people shot dead on Monday were killed for defying the new measures.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, in full military uniform, on the eve of the lockdown told troops to be a “force of kindness” and reminded police that “our people are terrified right now and we should not do anything to make their situation worse.”

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