Police Minister Bheki Cele says 36 police officers have lost their lives to COVID-19 and more than 5 000 have tested positive since the lockdown started. Cele was speaking to members of the police at a roadblock on the N1 North on Friday.

He thanked the members for their continued diligent work and urged them to stay safe.

Cele says more than 200 000 people have been arrested for transgressing COVID-19 regulations. He added that several high profile criminals have also been arrested.

Cele says as Gauteng has become the new epicentre of the pandemic, members should be vigilant as they are the first line of defense.

“When you deal with the population out there, remember to be professional and speak to them; work with them in a softer way. But that does not mean when you see the criminal, you laugh. When the criminal shoots you, there is no photo that comes out of that so you have not business to smile with the criminals. And the criminals are taking the chance because we are busy with COVID-19.”

In the video below, Cele addresses police officers: 

The Minister says they have noticed that crime is increasing in the three provinces where the COVID-19 pandemic is the worst.

He, however, says fighting gender-based violence during the pandemic should remain a priority. He encouraged police to continue improving their response to crimes committed against women, children and other vulnerable groups.

Cele says victims who come to the police must be treated with empathy.

“I want to emphasise the call as the president calls it the second pandemic. It is important that people who go to police stations, especially victims of gender-based violence, must be treated with respect. Don’t send them to go and negotiate; it’s not our job. Our job is to arrest those people that perpetrate violence against women and children.”

Cele assured families of policemen and women who died of COVID-19 that the police will support them. He also reminded the men and woman in blue that the police have several support systems available if they should test positive for COVID-19.