South Africa’s health workers’ union on Tuesday said it is taking the government in court over shortages of protective equipment for frontline staff as the country braced for a surge in new COVID 19 cases, reported Reuters.
Tens of thousands of health workers say shortages are putting them at risk of getting infected with the deadly COVID 19 virus that has already claimed thousands of lives all across the world. They claim that many doctors are buying their own protective gear in a desperate bid to ward off infection.
Under the 21-day lockdown imposed from March 27 in a bid to control the outbreak, South Africa has reported 1,749 confirmed cases and 13 deaths.
“The risk of employees being infected with the COVID 19 virus is real,” Zola Saphetha, general secretary of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU), said in court papers.
In response to the claims, South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Tuesday that the country as a whole had not run out of protective equipment. He ensured that government had enough stock for two months after receiving donations from the Motsepe Foundation, among others.
The minister, however, said that they would need more equipment if the number of cases increased drastically.
Mkhize encouraged health workers to point out where there were shortages so the government could move stocks around and said no one would be forced to work if they didn’t feel adequately protected. He said the government was continuously monitoring the situation and would place orders if they needed more.
The health minister noted that while the protective gear stock is already on its way, the South African government will next start to procure for the next several months. He said that with community health workers doing door-to-door testing, these kits were essential in the fight against COVID-19.