BY Wilmari Strachan
South Africa: Coronavirus (COVID-19) | obligations and roles of the electronic communications sector amended
Directions pertaining to the communications sector were issued on 26 March 2020 by the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies (the "Minister"), to ensure the smooth operations of the electronic communications sector – as essential services – during the national state of disaster period. You can read our previous article relating to the Directions here.
On 7 April 2020, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (“ICASA”) published a notice to amend the Directions ("Amended Directions"). We discuss these changes below under the relevant headings. The Amended Directions came into operation on publication thereof.
- Support to the education sector: the Amended Directions require connectivity to be made available to a higher number of district virtual classroom platforms. All licensees with access to high demand spectrum must make available connectivity to 152 district virtual classroom platforms with minimum speeds of 10Mbs to support virtual teaching during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) national disaster.
- Support to the health sector: licensees are still required to zero-rate all COVID-19 sites as identified by the Department of Health and must now also zero-rate all calls to the national number for COVID-19, as published by the Department of Health.
- In addition, the Amended Directions now provide that:
- 112 emergency centres must ensure that in the case of calls about COVID-19, the caller is connected to the national number as published by the Department of Health, if requested.
- All emergency centres are directed to display the national number for COVID-19 as published by the Department of Health.
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COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus, is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020. The disease has since been reported in over 190 countries.
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