Soldiers assist with COVID-19 screening, second SAHMS deployment readying for Eastern Cape


Soldiers are not only wielding assault rifles in support of police and other law enforcement agencies – they also brandish digital thermometers, aiding healthcare professionals screening for COVID-19.

A statement issued by the Joint Operations Division of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has it soldiers and other military personnel are part of an effort that, to date, has seen close on a hundred thousand civilians screened.

“Screening is done at roadblocks, vehicle control points and as part of outreach activities in all nine provinces,” according to the statement.

The number of civilians screened, using digital thermometers also known as “contactless scanners”, to date is 99 440 with 4 926 showing positive indications for the virus. The positives are referred for testing, in line with National Department of Health (NDOH) protocols, which the national defence force abides by during Operation Notlela.

This support comes mainly from the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) to aid metro, municipal and national traffic officials and policemen and women. Infantry soldiers, from both regular and Reserve Force units, are on hand at roadblocks and control points to provide further support and security, if needed.

SAHMS second rotation of healthcare practitioners are currently under quarantine in Thaba Tshwane ahead of taking over from the first medical military deployment to Eastern Cape, one of three identified hotspots nationally for COVID-19.

The group of 100 plus military medics will, according to an SANDF statement, “be handed to the Eastern Cape provincial department of health on successful completion of quarantine”. The team of medical and nursing officers, operational emergency care practitioners and occupational health and safety personnel is scheduled to commence duties in the province on 11 August with the rotation due to end on 31 December. They take over from a similar team deployed just over a month ago on 5 July.

The military component of government’s national state of disaster has been downgraded personnel-wise to around the 25 000 mark from a May high of over 73 000.

In line with the rules of engagement for Operation Notlela, soldiers assist police in combatting all forms of criminality.

This saw soldiers and police in Mpumalanga’s Acornhoek last month quell an incident of apparent mob justice. This week it was reported “the army” was sent to Hout Bay in Western Cape where protesters apparently took to the streets and were damaging property. The tasking was not confirmed by Joint Operations at the time of publishing.