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Criminalisation of transmission of SARS-CoV-2: A potential challenge to controlling the outbreak in South Africa

S Abdool Karim


In March 2020, two cases of attempted murder were opened against people who had tested positive for COVID-19 and had not remained in quarantine. Criminal law has previously been used to criminalise intentional transmission of HIV in both South Africa (SA) and other countries. However, it has been found that criminalisation laws undermine public health and measures to control outbreaks by stigmatising those infected and deterring testing. This article explores whether SA’s existing HIV criminalisation laws can be applied to the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, and the potential effect such measures could have on efforts to control the COVID-19 epidemic.

Author's affiliations

S Abdool Karim, PRICELESS SA, School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; SAMRC/WITS Centre for Health Economics and Decision Science Research Unit, Johannesburg, South Africa

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COVID-19; Health law; Medical law; Public health

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2020;110(6):458-460. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2020.v110i6.14753

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-04-22
Date published: 2020-04-22

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