According to a media statement by the South African Government, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr. Ronald Lamola, has appointed Justice Kate O’Regan, as the designated COVID-19 judge. This position enables the tracing of persons who are known or suspected to have come into contact with any person known or reasonably suspected to have contracted COVID-19.
The Regulations issued in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002, and as published on 2 April 2020 in Government Gazette No 43199 state that, “Regulation 11H empowers the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services to designate a judge who has been discharged from active service under section 3(2) of the Judges’ Remuneration and Conditions of Employment, 2001 or a retired High Court judge, as the COVID-19 Designated Judge.”
In other words, the Regulations provides for the Director-General of Health to give permission for an electronic communications service provider to provide the Judge with information that can locate any person, known or suspected, to have contracted COVID-19 or have come into contact with such a person. The requested information will be included in the COVID-19 Tracing Database.
The Designated Judge has an important role to play in keeping the privacy and personal information of persons during this process, safe.
The statement further read, “The Director-General of Health must file a weekly report with the COVID-19 Designated Judge setting out the names and details of all persons whose location or movements were so obtained. The COVID-19 Designated Judge may also make such recommendations to Cabinet members responsible for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Health and Justice and Correctional Services as she deems fit, regarding the amendment or enforcement of this regulation in order to safeguard the right to privacy whilst ensuring the ability of the Department of Health to engage in urgent and effective contact tracing to address, prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19,”.
Minister Lamola said, “Justice O’Regan is a highly respected former Judge of our Constitutional Court and is known for her unwavering commitment to human rights, social justice and the rule of law. I am grateful to Justice O’Regan for availing herself for this role so as to ensure that whilst we fight COVID-19, people’s rights to privacy are not compromised.”