The South African National Defence force is being prepared for a possible deployment to assist in efforts to mitigate spread of the coronavirus.
In a classified memo, members are instructed to prepare to provide support to various government departments.
A week after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of national disaster on March 15, the number of confirmed cases in South Africa has surged more than six-fold to 402.
A South African Army Infantry Formation warning order calls for the deployment of two sub-units of a battalion in Gauteng, the nation’s economic heartland.
One sub-unit is to be posted to each of South Africa’s remaining eight provinces, according to the order dated March 22 and signed by Brigadier-General Bayanda Mkula.
“This conceptually entails supporting other government departments in terms of disaster relief, humanitarian assistance and crisis response,” it said. All leave has been canceled while the order is in force, which will be at least 21 days and as long as three months, it said.
The army will give assistance to the police and the forces are encouraged to execute tasks, such as searches and cordons, in concert.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has warned 60% to 70% of the country’s 59 million people could contract the illness over time. While the government has instituted a ban on travelers from high-risk countries, shut schools and prohibited large gatherings, those measures have failed to sufficiently contain the outbreak.
Infections have been confirmed in all nine provinces, with the tally rising by 128 since Sunday, health ministry data show. Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg, has 207 cases, and the Western Cape has 100. There have been no fatalities so far.