Date: Mar 18, 2020

South Africa: COVID-19 could have devastating consequences for the poor

In response to the government’s declaration of a State of National Disaster to manage the COVID-19 outbreak, Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, said:

“This is a challenging time for South Africa and the world, and Amnesty International calls on everyone to stand in solidarity and to be kind to each other, and we welcome the President’s calls for solidarity and compassion.

“A crisis like this highlights the inequalities that already exist in South Africa with access to sanitation, water, healthcare, safe public transport and quality education as well as service delivery coming into even starker light than usual.

“Amnesty International calls on the government and other actors involved to ensure that all responses to the COVID-19 outbreak are in compliance with international human rights law and standards, and that the specific human rights risks associated with any particular response are addressed and mitigated.

“Many people living in poverty and those who don’t have access to adequate water and safe sanitation, may face additional barriers in being able to suitably protect themselves against the virus. All responses must consider the specific needs of marginalised groups and people and those most at risk and ensure that everyone has access to timely and meaningful information about the measures being taken.

“Let’s stand with humanity, leave no one behind, and get through this, together.”


President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a State of National Disaster on Sunday, 15 March 2020, in response to COVID-19. The WHO has designated the disease a pandemic:

The President announced he will chair a tri-weekly National Command Council.

The National Department of Health has issued a Coronavirus Outbreak 24-hour Hotline Number: 0800 029 999 and a WhatsApp information number +27 60 012 3456.