Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Robben Island staff fear getting infected

By Okuhle Hlati Time of article published Dec 22, 2020

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Cape Town - Robben Island Museum (RIM) prison tour guides and ferry employees have raised concerns over their health and safety after two staff members tested positive for Covid-19.

The World Heritage Site is among the top tourist attractions in the world and is usually abuzz in December, one of their peak season months.

According to RIM, ferries were operating at 70% capacity for all tours, but employees fearing for their health amid the second wave of infection, claim this was not the case.

A 62-year-old tour guide who asked to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation said the number of tourists who visited the island had increased while their number as workers remained the same.

“Sometimes we would be three people and the visitors to the Island would be 180 or 200. Some of us are old and can be infected easily, so we don’t understand why the numbers were increased. As prison tour guards, we share the same concerns with the ferry workers. We found out about the two cases on Sunday when the 1 o’clock tour was cancelled,” the guide said.

An employee who works in the ferry department said although there were air conditioners onboard, it was not enough.

“We are talking about a lot of people who are indoors for a couple of minutes, which is more than enough (time) to contract the virus. We raised this issue even before our colleagues got infected. We do believe that they could have contracted the virus at work. So it seems money is being valued more than our lives,” the employee said.

The museum's spokesperson, Morongoa Ramaboa, said RIM prioritised the safety of visitors and employees alike.

She said that according to their records, the incubation period for the virus was at least 10 days and that both colleagues contracted the virus outside of the work environment.

“RIM has a Covid-19 response plan in line with the National Command Council (NCC), the World Health Organisation and the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, as well as the risk adjusted strategy as advised by the National Government to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

“Currently, legislation allows us to operate at 100% and we operate the vessels at 70% capacity for all tours,” said Ramaboa.

She said two employees in their ferries department contracted Covid-19 and RIM became aware of the cases when they reported it.

“As an additional measure and as part of RIM’s Covid-19 response plan, RIM’s ferry, Krotoa, was decontaminated in the interest of visitor and employee safety once RIM received reports from the affected employees.

“Therefore all reported cases, internal or external, follow a stringent reporting and tracing process, in line with recommendations by the NCC and the Department of Employment and Labour. RIM is unable to provide more details on the matter at this stage for employee confidentiality purposes,” said Ramaboa.

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Cape Times

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