“WE JUST WANT TO RELAX”: ARE YOU RISKING A CRIMINAL CONVICTION OF MURDER FOR SPREADING COVID-19?

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The lockdown has been understandably stressful for everyone, as we all want to return to a greater degree of normality as soon as possible. There is a concern, however, whether people are relaxing a little too much for their own good as lockdown regulations have eased up, as evidenced by growing infection rates in South Africa.

According to http://sacoronavirus.co.za, there has been an increase in total known cases by a little over 100,000 people for June 2020 alone (since the inception of the Level 3 regulations), and which effectively means that the number of cases have quadrupled since 31 May 2020.

Whilst several factors must be taken into account when analysing the increase in infections, there are various indicators that many people are not exercising the caution they should be in their day to day interactions with others, or are simply failing to comply with health and safety requirements to minimise the risk of spreading the disease further.

Section 11 of the 18 March 2020 Regulations makes the intentional exposure of anyone to COVID-19 a criminal offense of assault, attempted murder, or murder. Whilst the keyword there is ‘intentional’, this does not necessarily mean that a Court will be prevented from considering charges of culpable homicide instead (situations caused by negligence) if a person acts recklessly by failing to comply with the health and safety restrictions.

A few weeks ago our very own Trevor Noah had spoken about the inherent social contract underlying society, which essentially requires us to act reasonably and do our part to benefit and protect other people. Is a criminal record a just punishment for a breach of this social contract if people are allowing themselves to let their guard down and spread COVID-19?

Author – Murray Taylor

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