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Covid-19: City of Cape Town rebuffs SAMWU claims of 9 officers testing positive

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Two officers who tested positive had no contact with homeless people at Strandfontein camp

Photo of entrance to Strandfontein Sports Complex
Entrance to the Strandfontein site where the City of Cape Town has been keeping homeless people during the Covid-19 lockdown. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks
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The City of Cape Town has denied claims made by the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) in a 30 April press release that nine law enforcement officers working at the Strandfontein Sports complex, used as temporary shelter for the City’s homeless people during the lockdown, had tested positive for Covid-19.

In a 2 May press statement, Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato said that the City will be laying criminal charges against SAMWU for spreading misinformation about Covid-19.

On Friday GroundUp reported SAMWU’s claim but the City had not responded to our request for comment by the time of publication.

Responding to GroundUp, City spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said that SAMWU’s claims about Law Enforcement at Strandfontein were inaccurate. Tyhalibongo said that two staff members who worked in the control room at Strandfontein tested positive for Covid-19, that the two “assisted on a temporary basis”, and emphasised that they “never had any contact with any of the homeless people at the facility in Strandfontein” following the positive tests.

SAMWU’s 30 April press release claimed that “the City has not even bothered to screen people who might have come into contact with the officers, sanitize the facility or temporarily close it.” SAMWU called on their members to “refuse to work if they have not been provided with the necessary PPE for them to be able to fully and safely execute their duties”.

Tyhalibongo denied SAMWU’s claim, saying that after the cases were confirmed on 27 April, the control room where the two had worked was “closed, deep cleansed and sanitised as per the health and safety protocols, and was operational two days later”. Tyhalibongo went on to state that those who had been in contact with the two members were isolated and subsequently tested negative for Covid-19.

Regarding SAMWU’s claims that Law Enforcement are not issued proper PPE, Tyhalibongo said, “All essential staff members working for the City have been issued with the necessary personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves and hand sanitisers. There is support and health and awareness training, and it is compulsory for staff to use hand sanitisers upon entering and leaving facilities.”

Councillor Zahid Badroodien, Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, responding to GroundUp said that “to date there are no street people diagnosed with Covid-19 at Strandfontein”.

SAMWU had not responded to a request for comment by time of publication.

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TOPICS:  Covid-19

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