Employees claim they have been denied the right to self-isolate after experiencing Covid-19 related symptoms.
Employees claim they have been denied the right to self-isolate after experiencing Covid-19 related symptoms.

City of Cape Town employees allegedly told to produce Covid-positive test results or work

By Asanda Sokanyile Time of article published Jan 16, 2021

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Cape Town - City of Cape Town employees claim they have been denied the right to self-isolate after experiencing Covid-19 related symptoms.

An Independent Municipal Trade Union representative said the employees, whose identities are known to the Weekend Argus, reported for duty but experienced Covid-19 symptoms. They informed their superiors but were told they could only self-isolate after producing a Covid-19-positive lab result.

“Two employees at the Revenue Department felt sick and reported their symptoms, but they were forced to continue working until such a time they could produce positive test results. During the time, another employee got infected and the two members were only able to produce their results on the Wednesday after having been sick since Monday,” he said.

He added that the Revenue Offices were shut down for a few hours on Wednesday for decontamination but work only resumed the next day.

He said the matter had been reported to the local Department of Labour and the union was awaiting feedback.

The affected employees would not comment on the matter at this time, saying “this is an internal issue which has to be dealt with within the organisation”.

The Covid-19 regulations as laid out in the Department of Labour’s gazetted consolidated directions on occupational health and safety measures in the workplace and were signed by the Minister of Labour in September 2020.

“If a worker presents with Covid-19-related symptoms, or advises the employer of these symptoms, the employer must; not permit the worker to enter the workplace or report for work, or if the employee is already at work, immediately isolate the worker, provide the worker with a surgical mask and arrange for the worker to be transported to a public health facility.”

Labour lawyer Greg Duncan said affected employees should immediately seek assistance from the Labour Department.

“The employees need to report the employer to the Labour Department, which will then send out inspectors to the place of business to assess the situation and make necessary recommendations,” he said.

Duncan added that employees who were symptomatic should be released of their duties immediately.

“Anyone with the signs should be allowed to go get tested and not be in contact with the rest of the staff and risk infecting anyone else,” he said.

The Department of Labour’s provincial chief inspector, David Esau denied knowledge of the incident and said the matter had not been reported to the department as yet.

City of Cape Town’s revenue director, Trevor Blake said general Covid-19 monitoring tools were used daily and each case was treated on its own merits and where necessary, staff who were in close contact with a positive case must go into quarantine, monitor symptoms and get tested.

“The necessary cleaning does take place at all offices after a positive case has been confirmed.”

The Department of Labour’s gazette states: “All positive cases and any Covid-19 concerns raised by staff and the unions are taken up with the occupational health and safety officers and/or relevant medical practitioner for professional guidance and advice.”

Meanwhile, Safety and Security Directorate employees who fear for their lives and those of their families wrote to the management, traffic chief, executive director, deputy acting chief and others demanding that their lives be put first, instead of department statistics.

Executive director for safety and security Richard Bosman said the department was doing everything by the book to ensure the safety of their members on the ground.

“We have put as many measures in place as possible to mitigate the risk to staff, including the provision of PPE, advising staff to stay at home if they’re not feeling well, deep cleaning of vehicles in cases of potential exposure, and ongoing education and awareness of City and general health and safety protocols, including how to conduct themselves outside of the work environment to reduce the risk of community transmission,” he said.

A total of 864 City of Cape Town employees have tested positive for the virus during the second wave and 12 have succumbed to the virus. Total cases from December 1, 2020 to January 14 are 1 063 staff infected – this includes community-acquired and suspected occupational-acquired infections.

Weekend Argus

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