No dog walking, and don’t you dare booze, warns Cele

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No dog walking, and don’t you dare booze, warns Cele

Police minister contradicts health minister, saying people could only walk their furries around the house

Zingisa Mvumvu, Claire Keeton and Tamar Kahn
Police minister Bheki Cele rained on dog owners' parades at a briefing about the Covid-19 lockdown on Thursday.
No nonsense Police minister Bheki Cele rained on dog owners' parades at a briefing about the Covid-19 lockdown on Thursday.
Image: AFP/Rodger Bosch

Police minister Bheki Cele cracked the whip on Wednesday, a day ahead of an unprecedented 21-day lockdown, announcing no alcohol would be sold and no dog-walking would be allowed, contradicting his own health minister.

Wednesday morning started with Zweli Mkhize offering a ray of hope to dog owners and runners, saying these activities would be permitted during the three-week national lockdown, which begins at midnight on Thursday.

But by Wednesday afternoon the government had backtracked on this. 

The lockdown is intended to curb local transmission of Covid-19, which has spread to all nine provinces. As of Wednesday, the total number of reported cases stood at 709, with 319 in Gauteng.

Mkhize initially said the lockdown was intended to limit contact between people as much as possible and was focused on ending the mingling of large groups of people.

However, people would still be able to go for a jog, or walk their dog, he said.

“There shouldn’t be a problem with that,” he said in an interview on SABC television on Wednesday morning. 

There was a little bit of a story that you can walk your dogs. There shall be no dogs walked, it doesn’t enhance the call made by the president. Walk your dog around the house, it ends there, it does not go beyond that.

But later in the day Cele contradicted this, saying it was not allowed.

“There was a little bit of a story that you can walk your dogs. There shall be no dogs walked, it doesn’t enhance the call made by the president. Walk your dog around the house, it ends there, it does not go beyond that,” he said. 

Mkhize, following the police minister’s announcement, said his initial comments were in line with the government’s thinking. 

“But we saw the distraction it caused ... it does not add any value to the lockdown,” he said. 

The lockdown imposes tight restrictions on the movement of people, who are expected to stay at home except for shopping for essentials such as food and medicines, seeking healthcare or collecting social grants. Essential workers, including people who work in healthcare, emergency services, the police, army, and in the production and distribution of vital supplies such as food and pharmaceuticals, are exempted from these rules.

No booze buying

Added to the “dog-walking measures” was Cele’s announcement that selling alcohol will not be allowed at bottle stores, while bars, taverns and shisanyamas will be shut throughout the 21 days.

“For 21 days, please stay sober,” the police minister said as he unpacked how the women and men in blue will enforce order when the national lockdown.

Cele announced a myriad places that will remain closed during the national lockdown, but emphasised the need for the country to resist alcohol.

If you have not stocked up on your beverages by the time the lockdown kicks in, you will be arrested when found with alcohol in public – even if sealed – during the lockdown.

Cele would have none of any plans from supermarkets to move booze from their bottle stores to the main store.

“Movement of alcohol will be restricted. There shall be no movement of liquor from point A to B,” said Cele. “If we find liquor in your car’s boot, that is illegal. If you break these laws, you are six months in jail or fined.”

Cele said the police were not playing around with threats to criminally charge those who disobeyed the law, citing the examples of two people in KZN who have already been arrested. These two, said Cele, had disobeyed an instruction not to move around after testing positive for Covid-19, and consequently police moved in to make the arrests.

Cele said if people stayed sober there would be fewer shootings, stabbings and car accidents.

‘We want the lockdown to work’

Mkhize urged South Africans to heed the government’s call to limit social interaction, saying the lockdown was not intended to be a three-week holiday. If people failed to observe the rules set for the lockdown, it would not work.

The biggest increase in the number of reported cases since Tuesday have been in Gauteng (64), the Western Cape (61), KwaZulu-Natal (11) and the Free State (15). Gauteng’s total now stands at 366 reported cases.

The minister said the concentration of cases around Mangaung in the Free State was a concern, and the Red Cross was helping the health department trace people who had been at a church gathering attended by five travellers from overseas who tested positive for the disease. “This is an area of great concern,” he said, describing Mangaung as an emerging epicentre.

There are also clusters of Covid-19 in Sandton, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and Cape Town, he said.

The main source of the disease remained travellers from European countries, but there was a growing number of cases of internal transmission. The minister said there had been no deaths, and only two patients were in intensive care. Five of the first cases had completely recovered and had tested negative for Covid-19.

So far, three healthcare workers haad tested positive for Covid-19.