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South African police fire rubber bullets at shoppers during Covid-19 lockdown

South African police enforcing a coronavirus lockdown have fired rubber bullets towards hundreds of shoppers queueing outside a supermarket in Johannesburg, an AFP photographer has said.

Between 200 and 300 people gathered outside a popular grocery store, Shoprite, early on Saturday in Yeoville, a crime-prone area in Johannesburg’s central business district on the second day of a nationwide lockdown. But as they scrambled to secure their spots, many did not observe the recommended safe distance.

Police arrived in 10 patrol vehicles and started firing rubber bullets towards the people. Startled shoppers trampled on each other and a woman with a baby on her back fell to the ground. Later the police used whips to get the shoppers to observe social distancing rules.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has ordered South Africa’s 57 million people to stay at home for 21 days and deployed the police and the military to enforce the lockdown. But many people have defied the order, as they go out looking for food.

While jogging and dog-walking are banned, shopping for food and other basics, but not alcohol, is permitted.

South Africa, which has 1,170 confirmed coronavirus cases, recorded its first death from the virus on Friday.

Billionaire Patrice Motsepe announced that his group of companies would donate 1bn rand (£45.5m) to help fight the coronavirus outbreak that has forced the country into total lockdown as infections climb.

Motsepe, Ramaphosa’s brother-in-law and head of investment firm African Rainbow Capital, said at a media conference the money would be channelled through the government to build water, health and education facilities.

The pledge follows a 1bn rand donation each by the Oppenheimer and Rupert families, and a government package of more than 3bn rand for industrial firms, and comes a day after the country lost its last investment-grade credit rating.

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