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South African Army Prepares for Deployment to Help Fight Virus

Members of the South African Police Services wearing masks amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus take part in a volunteer drive in the densely populated Diepsloot township in Johannesburg, on March 21. Photographer: Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images

BLOOMBERG, March 23, 2020

President preparing to address the nation later on Monday | Military cancels all leave, plans provincial deployments

By Paul Vecchiatto and Paul Burkhardt for Bloomberg – South Africa’s army is readying troops to help the police curb the spread of coronavirus, one of a series of measures President Cyril Ramaphosa is considering to deal with the outbreak.

A week after he declared a state of national disaster, the number of cases of the disease has more than quadrupled to 274 in South Africa. Ramaphosa will address the nation later on Monday, a day after meeting business leaders and members of the National Command Council that’s coordinating the response to the illness.

READ: UK calls in army and warns people to stay home or face lockdown

A South African Army Infantry Formation warning order seen by Bloomberg calls for the deployment of two sub-units of a batallion 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.

Defense Ministry spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini said he couldn’t immediately comment as he was in a meeting.

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