NEHAWU statement on the announcement of Covid-19 as a National Disaster
14 March 2020
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] notes the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the outbreak of COVID-19 is now a national disaster.
NEHAWU welcomes the interventions declared by the President last night and the Inter-Ministerial committee this morning. NEHAWU once more declares its unwavering support to our government in curbing the spread of the virus. We will vigorously continue with our awareness campaign targeting our members, workers and the public. The national union reiterates the call by the president for all South Africans to work in unison in combating the spread of the virus.
However, we are still concerned about the state of some of our public hospitals that have been earmarked for treating patients who have tested positive. Generally, there is a collapse in the laundry systems of various hospitals. Our major concern is the health of our members who must render service in hospitals with none functional laundry systems. In this regard, we call on the Department of Health to ensure that they troubleshoot problems as and when they occur in all healthcare facilities across the country.
We are also concerned about our members who deal with large numbers of clients like in Home Affairs, the South African Social Security Agency [SASSA] and other departments where our members interface with clients from outside the country on a daily basis. Moreover, most of our members work in shared spaces and at times are more than 100 in each open plan offices. We call on the government to look into this matter and address it as soon as possible.
The fight against the virus requires all stakeholders to work together for the benefit of all. In this regard, we call on the private healthcare providers to open their doors to citizens who might require their services but might not be in a position to pay. We appeal on their conscience to open their doors in order to test, treat those infected and join in on the efforts to curb the spread of the virus. We hope that people are treated based on their illnesses and not their ability to pay during this national disaster.
In light of the announcement by the President the national union has taken the following decision:
To cancel all union meetings
To cancel all international travel
To put together a team that will focus on the outbreak of the virus and plan on how to protect all our workers and staff of the union
NEHAWU salutes all its members and workers who gallantly go beyond the call of duty mostly under adverse conditions which includes understaffing, exhaustion, and other life-threatening situations to test, treat and quarantine those infected or suspected to be infected.
The national union remains unwavering its call for government to provide all our members in both private and public health, our members in the port of entries with all the necessary disinfection and protection materials. Government must also provide masks, soaps, and alcohol-based sanitizers free of charge to the population to stop unacceptable profiteering.
Issued by Khaya Xaba, NEHAWU Secretariat, 16 March 2020