NEWS & ANALYSIS

Take Covid-19 figures with a pinch of salt – SAFTU

Federation worried that massive decline in testing of citizens may give us the wrong picture

SAFTU statement on the announcement of lowering of regulations to level 2

16 August 2020

After five months of brutal lockdown and terror in the face of a deadly virus that is killing killed hundreds of thousands across the world including over 11 500 thousands in South Africa, many working class and poor people in this country will understandably welcome the announcement of a decline in the number of new infections and the easing of restrictions to Level 2.  While the figures released by the government may create a sense of hope, we wish to caution hasten to remind South Africans to receive this news with a pinch of salt.

SAFTU is concerned that the massive decline in testing of citizens may give us the wrong picture and breed a false sense of security. The truth is that, unlike at the beginning of lockdown, government is no longer doing contact-tracing nor using Community Healthcare Workers to vigorously screen citizens. At the beginning of the campaign there was aggressive random testing. This is no longer happening.

The reduction in testing from 50 000 tests daily to less than 12 000 is a cause for concern and amounts to criminal abdication of the fight to contain the pandemic, flatten the curve and effectively treat those infected. The fluctuations in numbers linked to increased testing in the private sector offer further proof that the decline in the numbers demonstrates not the rate of infections but of testing. We therefore demand that government increase testing to track the virus, so that those infected can be identified, supported to isolate and receive treatment. The celebratory mood that we have reached our peak may be completely misplaced.

Further evidence can be found in the number of people dying. SAFTU, including its biggest affiliate, has collaborated on the statement issued by the Medical Research Council which points to the massive increase in deaths due to “natural causes” between March and June this year. Our own  experience is that the government and the private sector were simply overwhelmed by the demand for testing. Testing results initially took 48 hours yet as we moved deeper into the crisis, results were returned only after two or more weeks. By the time these results come back many people had died, and those who were positive would have spread the disease to family and colleagues at work.

We call for a tighter coordination between the COVID-19 command center and the Medical Research Council so that the gap in information is closed.

The reopening of the hospitality industry will also come as a relief to many workers located here, who have taken a battering from massive job losses, reduced wages and income. As SAFTU we stand in solidarity with these and many others who are currently starving and dying silently of hunger, and lack access to any means of earning, to the health services overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases and many illnesses diagnosed and laid bare by this pandemic.

SAFTU has obtained legal advice that workers’ rights accruing from the LRA reign supreme to any law passed by parliament including the Disaster Management Act. We note that the restrictions on gatherings - which have been used by the employers to undermine strikes and protests of workers fighting job losses, workplace health and safety, for adequate PPEs and safe transport, as well as working class communities fighting for food relief, water, housing and resisting evictions from the land in informal settlements, houses and flats - have not been lifted.

We demand complete lifting of all restrictions on the democratic rights to organize, assemble, and demonstrate as These are the only democratic means that working class people have to defend themselves in the current crisis against ruthless employers who are putting risking the lives and health of workers at risk for their ruthless pursuit of profit.;The working class has to fight against from callous landlords and Red Ants evicting the poor from the land and from their homes during the lockdown as well as; and also for communities wanting social grants, food relief and fighting for accountability from corrupt politicians and tenderpreneurs who are devouring relief meant for the most desperate and starving people.

We continue to call on trade union and community organisers to observe all precautions to protect and save lives of those participating in mass organisations, campaigns, gatherings and demonstrations. In the present period that means ensuring strict marshalling to enforce social-distancing, wearing of masks, and regular sanitizing amongst other measures to prevent infections and spread of Covid-19 as a result of our gatherings and demonstrations. We reject authoritarian restrictions on the democratic rights and uphold the right of working class organizations to manage and secure their own events as we have always done. The working class must protect itself -  and every one of our organizations has an absolute revolutionary duty to ensure that this remains our responsibility.

SAFTU continues to campaign for the nationalization of private healthcare, laboratories, pharmaceutical and hospitality industries, in order to mobilise these for quality public healthcare for all, isolation and treatment of all those affected by C-19 without retreating an inch in fighting other health pandemics including HIV, TB, etc. that has killed many more people than Covid-19 has killed thus far.

Workers demand a fight against the pandemics of job losses, factory closures and hunger.

The shocking revelations of people dying of hunger, 3 million workers losing jobs, and one in three workers having lost an income between February and April is the clearest indication of the devastating impacts of the pandemic and deepening economic recession on the working class.devastation of the working class by the impacts of the pandemic and the deepening economic crisis it has aggravated to new depths worse even than the horrific levels seen before the pandemic. Unlike the rich, the workers are not likely to recover from these devastations unless we organize, unite and struggle for relief and bail-outs for the millions, the same way government has been bailing out millionaires thus far.  The stark contrast between this reality for the working people and the recovery of the rich is shocking. Many of the ruling classlatter have made obscene profits from plundering the state through PPEs tender-related corruption scandals.,And, while others like  NASPERS Chair, Koos Bekker, who has gained $400 million (almost R7 billion- R1,75 billion more than he lost initially) at the very same time thatas workers of NASPERS are facing income and job losses.

This includesing 500 jobs at their print media division, Media24, and 2000 members of SAFTU’s ICTU at the pay-TV division, Multi-choice.

These class contrasts are a gruesome expression of how the economic crisis, the C-19 pandemic and the fight against it has been carried out effectively and solely at the expense of everyone else except the rich capitalists and corrupt political elite serving them.

SAFTU is fighting for a moratorium on job losses and expropriation of any company breaking the moratorium and threatening mine or factory closures. Government must recapitalize these and support workers to operate them, and save jobs and the industrial capacity of the country, which the capitalists are laying to waste across the economy.

In the next coming weeks, SAFTU is planning to build a mass campaign to defending our members and fight for working class alternatives to the massive job losses, hunger and C-19 policies which have left the vast majority with worsening conditions steeped in misery.so many worse off.

Issued by SAFTU, 16 August 2020