Security and defence experts are calling on people to refrain from disobeying safety orders from members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) who have been tasked to support the SA Police Service when the national lockdown takes effect.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a three week national lockdown, starting at midnight on Thursday to help stem the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

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There are 554 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in South Africa and no reported deaths.

There are over 370 000 confirmed COVID-19 cases across the globe, with over 16 000 deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says: “Five hundred and fifty four new cases have been recorded overnight, as of 23:00 Monday night. Most of our people are in a good condition, many of them are no longer symptomatic and some of them are still being looked after at home.”

“We have a record of two patients who are in the ICU in private hospitals and then there are no deaths at this point. But at the rate at which these numbers are increasing, we expect that the numbers will still increase.”

In the video below is the full media briefing:

Defence expert, Helmoed Heitman, says SANDF members can assist with arrests during the lockdown, if the need arises.

He says: “For purposes of this period they have powers, like the right of arrest. They can’t throw you in a cell and keep you but they can take you to a police station.”

“You have to obey – so in effect they are the same as policemen for this purpose.

“The army, or defence force, can help with communications if necessary as it has a proper communication system. If it comes to planning or the release of supplies, generally worldwide and here too, the army is better at planning than other government departments.”

Below Heitman outlines the role the army can plan in assisting the SAPS

South Africa has become the latest country to implement a lockdown amid the outbreak of the coronavirus.