Police Minister Bheki Cele says 113 police officers have succumbed to the novel coronavirus and over 12 000 members of the South African Police Service have been infected since March.
Cele was speaking during the release of the 2019/20 crime statistics, where an increase in murder, rape, hijackings, robbery and drug-related crimes was noted.
In terms of murder, 21 325 people were killed and 53 293 people were raped between April 2019 and March 2020.
Cele said policing during the Covid-19 environment was a challenge for the police service.
“This invisible enemy is brutal and it is attacking everyone. In the call of duty during this pandemic, the SAPS has lost a total number of 113 police officers whilst 12138 have contracted the virus with 254 hospitalised and 4904 recoveries,” he said.
This means there are at least 7100 members of the police service who are currently infected with the virus.
Cele said the virus, which has seen South Africa being forced into a lockdown for over four months had changed the way police did their jobs.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically redefined traditional policing – social distancing is the new normal, effecting an arrest and a deployment at a Community Service Centre suddenly demands a different standard operating procedure.
“All men and women in blue in the Republic of South Africa collided with the drastic turn of events and had to immediately adjust whilst focussed on serving and protecting the nation,” he said.
Cele said despite the threat of the virus, he was urging police officers to protect and serve the country with high esteem.
“Covid-19 has really tampered severely with our spirit of Ubuntu. Today we cannot bury our police members.
“Many of them could not be afforded the send-off they deserve and this is very painful ladies and gentlemen, but we will continue to soldier on and serve the nation.
“We would like to pay our respect and salute the role of our departed members in the fight against crime.
“We also want to convey our sincere condolences to their families, their children, spouses and colleagues,” said Cele.