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One South Africa Movement and Another v President of the Republic of South Africa and Others (24259/2020) [2020] ZAGPPHC 249

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One South Africa Movement and Another v President of the Republic of South Africa and Others (24259/2020) [2020] ZAGPPHC 249

3rd July 2020

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1. The virus that has become commonly known as Covid-19, first detected in Wuhan, China in late 2019, has in the past six months, become arguably the most formidable challenge that humanity has had to face in the last 100 years.  While in excess of 8  million people have been infected and more than 400 000 lives lost directly on account of the virus, its impact has reached far beyond that.   It has impacted on the lives and livelihoods of probably billions across the world.  Economists and global leaders already warn of the massive loss in employment and the inevitable contraction of economies with all the attendant consequences that go with it.

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2. Thus, while the initial concern and response to the virus was largely and understandably a public health one, with time the impact of the virus on issues such as the economic survival of nations and their citizens, and the simple ability to live a meaningful and decent life, has come sharply into focus.  The ability of governments, in particular those in the developing world, to respond holistically to the needs and well-being of their citizens has come under increased pressure.  This has been exacerbated by the inevitable recognition over time that the virus will be with us for some time and that a cure in the form of a vaccine is still somewhere in the future.

3. Knowledge about the virus has developed incrementally and conclusions and assumptions previously made about it have been in an ongoing state of flux. Strategies to deal with the dangers it poses have varied and been adapted over time as the knowledge base about the virus deepens and as new research unfolds new realities.

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4. That being the case, there has been no universal response to how to deal with the virus, save for agreement on measures such as social distancing, the wearing of face masks and the washing of hands.  Beyond that, some countries have opted for what has become known as a hard lockdown while others have opted for a soft lockdown.

5. In some instances, economic and social restrictions have acquired the force of law and attract criminal sanctions while in other instances guidelines are issued and it is left to the wisdom and goodwill of citizens as to how to comply with them.  What this simply demonstrates is that in dealing with a virus, whose scope and dimensions are not fully known, intervention measures are not universal.

6. At the same time, and despite the considerable level of uncertainty and anxiety that has accompanied the arrival and spread of the virus, there have also been many unintended and beneficial consequences.  The need for human solidarity has become more willingly embraced and the idea of a shared humanity has hopefully progressed to more than a slogan as people recognise their common vulnerability in these times.

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