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The South African Government has appointed former Constitutional Court judge Kate O’Regan as the COVID-19 Designate judge to protect the individual’s privacy and their personal information, acknowledging the risk of violation of their right to privacy during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Mr Ronald Lamola has appointed Justice Catherine O’Regan  as the COVID-19 Designate judge.

The Government had issued regulations last week making provisions for contact tracing and a national database to enable the tracing of persons who are known or reasonably suspected to have contacted COVID-19. The regulations were issued in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 and published by the Government on 2nd April 2029 in the Government Gazette.

The Regulations further provide that the Direction- General of Health may direct an electronic communications service provider to provide the information regarding the location or movements of any person who is known or reasonably suspected to have contracted the coronavirus or has come in contact with such person.

The Government in the media statement has also pointed out the importance and role a Designated Judge in safeguarding the privacy and personal information of persons during the process.

The Director General of Health is required to file a weekly report with the COVID-19 Designate Judge, with details of all the persons whose location or movements were tracked and so obtained.

The Judge may then make recommendations to the Cabinet Ministers  regarding any amendments or enforcements required in the present regulation to preserve the right to safety.

The Judge however needs to ensure the ability of the Department of Health to engage in urgent and effective contact tracing to prevent and combat COVID-19.

The appointed Designated Judge, Justice O’Regan is a former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, who previously acted as Deputy Chief Justice , an ad hoc judge the Supreme Court of Namibia, Chairperson of the United Nations Internal Justice Council, and also as the President of the International Monetary Fund Administrative Tribunal..

The media statement stated that: “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,” – Minister Ronald Lamola.

-India Legal Bureau

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