Pretoria – The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has appealed to South Africans to drink responsibly to avoid congesting the country’s hospitals with alcohol-related trauma.
This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the lifting of the ban on the sale of alcohol on Monday night. The ban was originally introduced as one of the Covid-19 lockdown measures.
“We note the lifting of the ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol and we hope that our people will drink responsibly in order to lessen the strain on our already overstretched health-care system.
“The easing down of restrictions and the securing of vaccines does not mean we must let our guard down. All hands must be on deck in order to flatten the curve and stop new infections,” said Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha.
“We call on government to continue to revive the economy while dealing with the pandemic. Around 2.2 million jobs have been lost during the lockdown and more will be lost if a progressive economic recovery plan is not implemented urgently.”
Nehawu, the third-largest public service trade union in South Africa, represents a wide range of health-care workers, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, cleaners, dispensary and reception clerks, community health workers, ambulance and morgue staff, community care workers and laboratory technicians.
While welcoming the decline in Covid-19 infections, hospital admissions and deaths, the union said it was worth noting the numbers were still much higher than during the hard lockdown early last year.
“The current daily average infections are around 5 500. When the country went on lockdown on the 26th March 2020, the daily average was around 1 000 infections and there was no aggressive new variant that was propelling the numbers. This proves beyond reasonable doubt that we are not yet out of the woods,” said Saphetha.
“The coronavirus continues to be deadly as demonstrated by the number of people who continue to lose their lives on a daily basis.”
He said Nehawu had been engaging with its members and health-care workers on the upcoming vaccination programme.
“We have been encouraging them to get vaccinated for them to be protected against the virus. While a majority of our members and workers are looking forward to the vaccinations, they are still very low on morale. Our members and workers continue to be dejected by the non-payment of their salary increases that was due on the 1st April 2020.
“Furthermore, government and the Department of Health are still dragging their feet on the implementation of a danger allowance or a moral incentive. These are workers who have gone beyond the call of duty to screen, test and treat our people during the pandemic. Our members and workers continue to give their best even when faced with understaffing, lack of psychosocial services, exhaustion and life-threatening situations.”
The union welcomed the arrival of the one million doses of vaccines from the Serum Institute of India and urged the government to source more vaccines from countries such as Cuba, China and Russia.
“We support the South African Communist Party (SACP) in calling on our government to avoid confining our national vaccine programme, especially sourcing, to Western European and the United States developed vaccines, but to also engage as widely as possible with others that have genetic engineering and biotechnology capabilities, such as Cuba, China and Russia. Moreover, we strongly believe that the Cuban developed Heberon Alfa R (Interferon Alfa 2b) has a good track record in treating Covid-19, especially in Italy, and must be given a chance by our government,” said Saphetha.
African News Agency (ANA)