Minister of Communications, Telecommunications and Postal Services Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has assured South Africans that contact tracing in COVID-19 cases will not be used to spy on citizens. Addressing the COVID-19 National Command Council media briefing on Thursday in Tshwane, the Minister said contact tracing will be used to attain information that can assist the government in minimising the spread of the virus.
“When we say we are going to use cell phone numbers, it doesn’t mean we are going to take anybody’s number. Those that test and are found to be positive…it is those people that the Department of Health will seek permission from the Electronic Communications Network Service (ECNS) licences to access their geolocation," the Minister said.
In turn, people who have been in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 will be identified through the process of contact tracing.
“I know that people have been concerned that the government wants to spy on people. This is not spying on anyone. We do respect that everyone has the right to privacy, but in a situation like this, our individual rights do not supersede the country’s rights. The most important and critical right is ensuring the safety of South Africans.
“We are on lockdown because of the virus that is spreading. It is in our interest as government as well as South Africans to ensure that we minimise the spread of the virus,” the Minister said.
By doing this, she said, the government will not intercept phone calls of citizens in its process of contact tracing.
Globally there are 896,450 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), a total of 45,526 confirmed deaths and 206 countries, areas or territories with cases.
Centralisation of water services
Meanwhile, the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation have established a command centre that has taken over most of the work of water boards.
“We have established a command centre where you can call to get access to water. The command centre ensures that all the water tanks that we have procured are taken to places that have been identified to be in need,” Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu said.
Municipalities will be responsible for identifying areas where water tanks will be placed.
These, she said, will be provided centrally by the centre.
All water tankers will be reporting on a regular basis to the command centre which is situated at the premises of Rand Water in Johannesburg.
“Should anybody experience a shortage of water, this is the place where we will be able to direct our tankers to. This is the place that will direct people who own irrigation schemes in our farming communities to direct some of their water to where there is a need for water,” said Sisulu.
The briefing came on day 7 of South Africa’s 21-day national lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last month.
According to the latest figures, South Africa now has 1 462 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with five recorded deaths. Two other deaths are yet to be confirmed.