More quarantine facilities are being set up urgently, hospitals are being refurbished and ventilators and masks are now being manufactured locally, should the number of Covid-19 cases increase sharply with the entry into Level 3 of the seclusion period. About 8 million people in South Africa are expected to return to work next Monday when this level is set.
Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille said during a virtual media conference on Friday afternoon that her department identified 1,751 state facilities, including 642 state-owned facilities, which will henceforth be used for quarantine purposes.
A total of 358 of these facilities are located in the Western Cape, which is currently the epicenter of the new coronavirus in South Africa. A total of 27,500 additional beds have now been made available for quarantine purposes in this province.
According to De Lille, 129 600 beds across the country will be made available for those who are quarantined, as well as those who are repatriated and placed under mandatory quarantine.
The minister also said 31 hospitals in the Eastern Cape and 19 hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal will be refurbished while ten institutions in Mpumalanga have already been identified to serve as field hospitals.
Cape Town’s International Convention Center will also be transformed into a field hospital for the Western Cape and structures will be erected in the North West for medical purposes, De Lille said.
Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel said more masks would be needed as more and more South Africans returned to work. The government is currently using local manufacturers to provide surgical masks.
Patel said 25 million surgical masks were manufactured during May. Another 31 million surgical masks are expected to be manufactured in June. This means that about 1 million masks are manufactured locally every day.
The government also intends to use local manufacturers to manufacture ventilators.
According to Patel, three prototypes of a ventilator will be finalized soon after which the manufacturing of ventilatorswill begin in June. By August, 20,000 ventilators are expected to be manufactured locally, he said.
Minister of Labor and Employment Thulas Nxesi said South Africans will be allowed to return to work from Monday, provided that the necessary safety measures are implemented at the workplace. This includes a Covid-19 safety plan and the appointment of an officer who will take the lead among employees to ensure that the necessary measures are adhered to.
However, employers may not deduct the costs associated with instituting these measures from employees’ salaries, Nxesi said.
Should an employee test positive for Covid-19 during Level 3 of the seclusion period, the employee must be placed under compulsory 14-day quarantine with paid leave.
According to Nxesi, employees may refuse to return to work if they can reasonably demonstrate that they will be exposed to Covid-19 at the workplace.
Employees older than 60 years, as well as those with pre-existing medical conditions, are requested to work from home. Those who can work from home at this stage are also requested to do so.
Wearing masks in the workplace is mandatory. Employees must each receive at least two free masks.
According to Nxesi, his department visited 72 workplaces on Monday to determine whether they are ready to resume operations with the necessary security measures. A total of 44 of the workplaces did not comply with the measures.
A total of 44 of 72 workplaces checked on Monday to ensure they were ready to open were not ready. “None of us are immune and every effort must be made to ensure the safety and health of employees,” the minister said.
Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF)
According to Nxesi, the Unemployment Insurance Fund has so far paid R15 billion to 3 million beneficiaries. However, the UIF now expects to be under less pressure as many South Africans will return to work during level 3 of the seclusion period.
Gwede Mantashe, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, (Photo: Jairus Mmutle / GCIS)
The Department of Labor’s offices will not be open as planned on Monday, but only on June 8. This is because several employees still need to be trained.
Mineral and energy
Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, in turn, said electricity demand would increase amid the reopening of the economy. South Africa will also initially experience low diesel supplies until refineries can once again produce enough diesel.
Mines are expected to be able to operate at full capacity during level 3 of the seclusion period. However, miners’ safety and health should be given priority, the minister said.
According to Mantashe, his department tested more than 4,600 miners for Covid-19 by Thursday, of which 384 tested positive. More miners will now be checked and tested for the new coronavirus when level 3 is introduced.