South African police will escort ambulances and fire engines on night calls in Johannesburg following a surge of attacks on emergency workers, city officials announced Wednesday.
David Tembe, Johannesburg metro police's head of public safety, said authorities were concerned with "a spike in assaults... of crews when responding to emergency calls".
Police vehicles will escort emergency vehicles between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am in areas identified as hotspots.
"These are interim measures that we are going to use, we can't wait until all the bureaucratic hurdles have been dealt with while people are dying," Tembe told reporters in Johannesburg.
The authorities have recorded three attacks this week alone and 10 since the start of the year.
"We are going to put our foot down to make sure this thing doesn't happen again," he said, describing the attacks as "opportunistic".
Emergency services workers have been targets of violence and robbery in crime-ridden neighbourhoods including the central business district and Alexandra, a township adjacent to the city's commercial hub of Sandton.
Medical staff have been trained in self-defence including the use of pepper spray, while ambulances have been equipped with panic buttons.
Cape Town was the first city in South Africa to introduce armed police escorts for emergency services two years ago.