Implats temporarily suspends operations at Marula after detecting positive Covid-19 cases
16 May 2020
Implats confirms that following stringent and comprehensive screening, testing and tracing protocols, a cluster of positive COVID-19 cases has been detected at and around its Marula operation in Limpopo province.
Implats has identified 19 positive cases during the week, all of them asymptomatic - meaning the individuals tested exhibited no apparent coronavirus symptoms. Of these cases, 14 were identified as the result of proactive testing of employees returning to work. None of these employees had started work at the mine. Of the remaining five, one case was identified as a primary contact and the remaining four were identified through contact tracing. Two of the active cases had recently returned from the Eastern Cape. Significantly, 17 of the confirmed cases reside locally, suggesting the prevalence of COVID-19 among local communities is far higher than the company’s initial estimates had indicated.
As such, the rigorous screening and testing protocols at Marula have proved effective in quickly identifying cases, enabling the Group to rapidly isolate affected employees to prevent wider infection on the mine. It was also confirmed that these cases included a local health provider and four mine-employed health providers working at the mine clinic. This facility was immediately closed for sterilisation and testing of medical staff and all primary contacts.
Every person who tested positive was immediately isolated to prevent the further spread of the virus and has been isolated at the mine’s isolation site, at government designated facilities or at home as per government protocols. Department of Health officials visited patients at our quarantine site this morning, 16 May 2020.
Marula currently works rotational shift cycles, with two teams alternating a week at work and a week off. Marula will not recall workers due to report for duty next week, to enable it to first complete all relevant health and safety protocols, including: verifying test results, sanitising identified high-risk areas, conducting further contact tracing and testing procedures as required, and placing people in isolation and quarantine based on the outcome of the screening and testing results.
It is critically important that Implats identifies people who may have been the source of the infections or been in contact with affected individuals. The Group is working closely with the public healthcare authorities on tracing protocols to identify all those who may have come into close contact with the affected employees and all Marula employees and contractors are complying with the relevant protocols as instituted by government. We are making the appropriate support and resources available to all our affected colleagues during what is undoubtedly a stressful time.
Implats CEO Nico Muller said: “Implats fully supports the decisive action taken by our government to help mitigate the health, labour market and economic impacts of the coronavirus. We continue to comply with the government and industry Standard Operating Procedures related to COVID-19, as well as our own initiatives to manage this virus. Promoting best practice COVID-19 health guidelines in our workplace, at home and in the community is a priority.
Any COVID-19 infection is a reminder to every citizen that we must remain vigilant and continue practising appropriate social distancing and the simple but essential hygiene and infection mitigation measures.
We thank our medical and other employees who acted swiftly to identify and isolate these individuals. We are well prepared to deal with employees that have tested positive and will be deploying all the resources available to us to protect the lives and livelihoods of our people and host communities.
We wish our infected employees a speedy recovery and will continue to support them and their families through these anxious times.”
Issued by Johan Theron on behalf of Implats, 16 May 2020