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Concern after three dept workers die

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Workers at the Department of Education have accused the management of attempting to “fight the virus with new dustbins, boxes of tissues and wet wipes”.

File image. Picture: AP Photo Andrew Medichini

CONCERNS have been raised about the handling of Covid-19 cases at the Northern Cape Department of Education after three employees reportedly died in the past two weeks.

Staff have accused the department of not informing them of positive cases.

According to the staff, there have been at least three deaths, including that of the late MEC Mac Jack, in the past two weeks while almost 20 people in the department have apparently tested positive for Covid-19.

Workers have accused the management of attempting to “fight the virus with new dustbins, boxes of tissues and wet wipes”.

“The new strategy of the department appears to be a policy of not revealing if someone is positive. Instead employees are told to go into quarantine while the offices are not disinfected or deep-cleaned,” the staff stated.

One staff member said they just noticed that people “disappeared and their offices were locked”. “We never receive straight answers about what is actually happening. As a result, we cannot take the necessary precautions.”

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) said on Wednesday that it was aware of the allegations.

Nehawu provincial secretary Steffen Cornelius said an engagement had been scheduled with the Department of Education to obtain more clarity on the situation.

“We have also requested that the Department of Labour conducts inspections at the department’s offices to ensure that the proper protocol is being followed,” Cornelius added.

According to Nehawu, engagements were supposed to have started on Tuesday already but have been postponed to Thursday and Friday.

Department spokesperson Lehuma Ntuane said the affected units at the department’s head office building had been closed since Tuesday and would remain closed until it was safe for employees to return to work.

Ntuane said that all high-contact areas would be disinfected in line with Covid-19 regulations and protocols.

“The head office of the Department of Education will be operating with skeleton staff for the next two days,” Ntuane added.

“This forms part of our precautionary measures following confirmed Covid-19 cases at our head office.”