NEHAWU statement on the easing of lockdown regulations
2 February 2021
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) notes the announcement of the easing down of regulations of the adjusted level 3 of the COVID-19 lockdown levels by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
While welcoming the decline in infections, hospital admissions and fatalities it is worth noting that the current numbers are still much higher than during the hard lockdown. The current daily average infections are around 5500. When the country went on lockdown on the 26th March 2020 the daily average was around 1000 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. The coronavirus continues to be deadly as demonstrated by the number of people who continue to lose their lives on a daily basis.
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 healthcare system. The easing down of restrictions and the securing of vaccines does not mean we must let our guards down. All hands must be on deck in order to flatten the curve and stop new infections. 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 has been engaging its members and workers on the upcoming vaccination programme and 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.
NEHAWU will not tire until government implements PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2018 especially clause 3.3 which deals with the salary increase of public servants. In this regard, the national union filed leave to appeal papers in the Constitutional Court on the 27th January 2021 against the judgement handed down on the 15th December 2020 by the Labour Appeal Court (LAC) on the public servants salary increase matter.
Once again, we welcome the arrival of the one million doses from the Serum Institute in India (SII) yesterday and we are looking forward to the arrival of the 500 000 more vaccines that will be used to inoculate frontline workers. We hope the quality assurance checks will move with speed so that the vaccination can begin in earnest. Furthermore, we welcome the securing of more vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, the COVAX facility, and from the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT). We will continue to work with government and the Department of Health in the roll-out of the vaccination programme including ensuring that the vaccines reaches where they are intended.
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.
Our National Executive Committee (NEC) held on the 30th – 31st October 2020 expressed its strong support of the nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize of the Cuban Henry Reeve medical brigade for its unparalleled internationalism. We are elated that our government has elected to support our call for the recognition of these selfless doctors from Cuba.
NEHAWU will continue to advocate for the strengthening of ties between our government and the Cuban government including the continuation of the Castro-Mandela initiative to train our doctors in Cuba. The national union condemns the unfair criticism levelled against the deployment of Cuban doctors in the country. We view these attacks as nothing but pure envy for their exceptional work rate and the amazing results they have achieved across the world where they have been deployed.
Lastly, we want to underscore the point that we are yet to weather the storm and this is not the time to let down our guards. All South Africans must continue to follow all regulations and protocols in order to protect themselves and their loved ones.
Issued by Khaya Xaba, National Spokesperson, NEHAWU, 2 February 2021