NEHAWU statement on the announcement of a nation-wide lockdown to combat Covid-19
24 March 2020
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] supports the pronouncement made by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the decision of the National Coronavirus Command Council to enforce a nation-wide 21 days lockdown from the midnight of the 26th March 2020.
NEHAWU calls on all South Africans to honour and comply with the nation-wide lockdown measures to ensure that the currently steeply rising trajectory of infections begins to fall. In this regard, we echo the President’s message of solidarity, which enjoins each one of us to do what we can within the parameters of the lockdown measures to support those in desperate need, especially the elderly, disabled and the poor. To turn the tide on the coronavirus requires absolute compliance and cooperation with entrusted authorities and their orders.
The national union demands that both the Department of Public Service and Administration [DPSA] and the Department of Health must urgently come up with a clear method that will be used to identify categories of employees prescribed by the announcement of the President last night. It is important that our members and employees are not harassed nor impeded from going to work by members of the South African Defence Force [SANDF] when they are reporting for duty during the national lockdown. Instead, they should be assisted to get to their workplaces so that they can offer the much needed help.
We shall monitor the implementation of the announced measures to ensure that all the necessary protective equipment are made available and health and safety measures are complied with. We reiterate our concern that at the present moment, the protective clothing and sanitisers in hospitals and clinics are only given to workers in the isolation wards – leaving other components of the health workforce exposed. Moreover, in several instances including hospitals such as Charlotte Maxeke, Addington and Cecelia Makiwane, laundry services continue to breakdown or function irregularly. We call on government to move with speed to troubleshoot these problems as they seek to undermine our efforts to combat the virus.
NEHAWU once again pays homage to all its members and workers who courageously go beyond the call of duty under adverse conditions which includes work over-load, exhaustion, and even life-threatening circumstances in attending to testing, treating and enforcing quarantined therapeutic settings.
NEHAWU remains unwavering in its demand for government to immediately procure the Cuban Interferon Alpha 2B, which has proven to be effective in the fight against the COVID-19 condition in other countries and also learn lessons from countries like China, etc on how they have managed to control the virus and consider what might be suitable and useful for our conditions.
We reiterate the demand by COSATU for special arrangements to be made by employers to transport all workers who are expected to continue working as part of combating the virus and ensuring that basic services are available. Most of our members rely on public transport and lift clubs and will definitely need to be assisted with transport while the country is in a lockdown.
We note the implications of the lockdown on the economy and the steps government will be taking to cushion the blow and therefore we call on the private sector to contribute more from their coffers. Furthermore, we also note the announced measures to support small businesses and to protect workers. In this regard, we call on government to put stringent measures to combat self-enrichment, corruption and profiteering during this dark period.
Issued by Khaya Xaba, National Spokesperson, NEHAWU, 24 March 2020