COVID-19: Electronic communications service providers must disclose information to tracing database
By Nozipho Mngomezulu, Peter Grealy and Jodi Hardy
The Minister of Co-operative Government and Traditional Affairs has published amendment regulations authorising the national Department of Health to develop and maintain a national database to enable people to be traced who are known or reasonably suspected to have come into contact with any person known or reasonably suspected to have contracted COVID-19. This law has real implications for electronic communications service providers.
The database will contain information deemed necessary for the tracing process to be effective, including:
- The first name and surname, ID number, address(es) and mobile numbers of all persons who have been tested for COVID-19 (Persons of Interest);
- The COVID-19 test results of all persons of interest; and
- Details of the known or suspected contacts of any persons of interest who tested positive for COVID-19.
Under the amendment regulations, the Director-General of Health may, in writing and without prior notice to the person concerned, require an electronic communications service provider licensed under the Electronic Communications Act, 2005 (which includes mobile network operators, Internet service providers and other communications providers) to provide certain information for inclusion in the database. This information would relate to:
The location of persons of interest; and
The location or movements of any person known or reasonably suspected to have come into contact with persons of interest (from 5 March 2020 until the national state of disaster is terminated).
An electronic communications service provider that fails to comply with its obligations under the amendment regulations will be guilty of an offence and, on conviction, will be liable for a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of six months, or liable for both a fine and imprisonment.