Durban - THE grim milestone of South Africa reaching one million Covid-19 cases on Sunday as announced by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has rocked the country.
There are also reports of about 14 teachers who have died from Covid-19 within 24 hours.
According to a Facebook post by Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga, he received information five days ago that a further 18 teachers were reported to have died on Saturday from Covid-19 and 32 had died in less than a week.
"The grieving over these holidays is too much. Many families have been left without loved ones during these holidays arising from social activities," he posted.
Concerned about these numbers, the Educators Union of South Africa shared Mhlanga's post on its WhatsApp chat group in order to caution its teachers that the second wave was real and was killing more and more teachers.
The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) agreed saying that the number of teachers dying of Covid-19 was an indication that there was a huge number of teachers in society.
Sadtu provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said school closed on December 15, before the second wave which made it difficult for the union to collect statistics on the number of teachers who have since died from Covid-19.
"We are receiving reports of teachers dying of Covid-19. It would be dangerous to re-open schools now in the middle of the second wave, especially as numbers show that more and more citizens who are also teachers are dying of Covid-19. It is therefore important for the government to implement strict strategies to fight the pandemic now before schools reopen. We continue to urge our teachers to practice social distancing by avoiding crowded places and gatherings,"said Caluza.
The National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA) provincial spokesperson Thirona Moodley said the schooling system should prepare itself for the 2021 schooling year including the reality that a number of teachers and support staff will not return to work due to the severe Covid-19 pandemic.
Moodley said this would leave a gap in the system as their losses will be felt as experiences and expertise that they offered cannot be replaced overnight.
She said this was because teachers engaged in lifelong learning and accumulate invaluable experience over the years in the profession.
"Schools have planned for 2021 with all staff included any staff who cannot return as a result of Covid-19 infection will also mean the school will have to adjust the timetable or quickly get a replacement staff. The loss of any school personnel will be really sad as they will not only be leaving grieving families, but also families at school," said Moodley.
EUSA General Secretary Simphiwe Mpungose said the picture painted by Mhlanga in his Facebook post was just the tip of what was real in communities where families were shattered by this virus.
Mpungose said from December 15 to 27, since schools closed, the union had received reports of 900 teachers dying of Covid-19 through its social media platforms.
He said they received reports that last week, 343 teachers were turned away from hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal due to shortage of beds.
"We are disgusted by the government's attitude to keep the country at lockdown level 1 while all odds demand drastic measures to save lives. Soon teachers will be asked to go to marking centres , where they will risk infecting each other. Teachers will attend marking centres because they need money. EUSA is calling for teachers who will be working at these centres to be provided with a vaccine.“
Mkhize confirmed on Monday that there were 9 502 new cases and reported that a cumulative 6 445 318 tests have been conducted with 29 494 tests completed since the last report.
KwaZulu-Natal is currently the province with the most active cases with 46 710 confirmed cases while the Eastern Cape reordered the highest number of Covid-19 related deaths of 6 925.
He reported 214 more Covid-19 related deaths; with 123 in the Eastern Cape, 17 in Gauteng, 13 in KwaZulu- Natal, 5 in the Western Cape and 5 in the Northern Cape, bringing the total death toll to 26 735.
The country's recoveries stood at 844 874, representing a recovery rate of 84,1%.