JOHANNESBURG

South Africa’s president has extended deployment of 20,000 troops to help police enforce lockdown regulations until the end of September, as the country continues to register high number of COVID-19 cases.

Cyril Ramaphosa said the army will work in cooperation with the police to maintain law and order, support other state departments, and control the country’s border line to combat the disease, the parliament said in a statement late Thursday, quoting the president’s letter addressed to the house.

Ramaphosa initially deployed 2,280 troops on March 27, days before enforcing a nationwide lockdown but later extended the numbers to 76,000 in April — with the troops’ tenure ending on June 26.

South Africa has so far registered 168,061 COVID-19 infections, the highest on the continent, and 2,844 deaths.

The country, which had one of the most strict lockdown regulations in the world, last month partly lifted its three-month nationwide lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the virus.

Prior to the relaxation of COVID-19 regulations, only essential workers were allowed to leave their homes to work. Citizens were also restricted from exercising outside their homes or going to places of worship.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize warned that the country could impose another strict lockdown if coronavirus infections and deaths continue to rise in the country.

In a letter to the parliament, Ramaphosa said the army will continue to help police enforce restrictions for as long as the pandemic is not under control.

They will also support and work with the National Department of Health in managing COVID-19 through setting up field hospitals, and providing medical screening services among others.

The money expected to be spent for this extension is 1.5 billion rand (approximately $88.2 million), the president said in his correspondence with the parliament speaker.

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