Two seasoned police officers have died of the coronavirus, national police management confirmed on Thursday.
The deaths come at a time when over 370 officers have tested positive for the virus, with the majority of cases being in the Western Cape.
In a statement, national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole described the two as “brave and exemplary” members, who had “served and protected the South African people with utmost diligence”.
One of the fatalities was a warrant officer based in KwaZulu-Natal. The other was a captain stationed in the Eastern Cape.
Sitole paid tribute to the two officers, who “placed their lives on the line to ensure that the people of South Africa are protected against crime as well as against this virus”.
“I have also conveyed my sincere condolences to the families of our fallen colleagues and thanked them for the decades the members have served in SAPS, as well as for allowing them to serve during these trying times.”
The warrant officer died two weeks ago of Covid-19. He joined the police as a student constable in 1993 and had 27 years of service.
The captain started his career in 1991 and had 29 years of service at the time of his death. He died on Monday.
“While our aim as an organisation is to ensure that we prevent, combat and investigate crime, the good health, safety and well-being of our members remain a responsibility that the management of the service does not take lightly,” police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said.
A total of 55 officers have recovered from the virus.
“In response to the surge in numbers in the Western Cape, a delegation from the national steering committee visited the province to provide the necessary support in ensuring that the protocols to contain and manage Covid-19 are being implemented accordingly,” Naidoo said.
SAPS’s Employee Health and Wellness component provides necessary psychological support to infected and affected police members and their families through a number of interventions, such as counselling, he added.
“The establishment of a 24/7 Covid-19 hotline is another measure that has been put in place to ensure continuous support to our infected and affected members and their families.
“The hotline is being manned by SAPS psychologists, occupational health experts, chaplains, legal experts, as well as members from operational environments to assist frontline members to implement lockdown regulations accordingly,” Naidoo said.
“Regular compliance visits are also being conducted weekly at all SAPS premises, which include police stations, to ensure that all SAPS members have the necessary PPE (personal protective equipment) and crucial items to protect them and the visitors at all frontline points against the virus.”