South Africa’s first Level 5 hard-lockdown was imposed 14 months ago (27 March 2020 – 26 May 2021). For the several months that followed the global template thereafter, economic ruin for the most part became a reality. Currently in Level 1, the country is bracing for a retrograde Level 2 lockdown.
In April this year the country was reporting 789 infections a week but as of today, that number has now ballooned to 2 858. Data published by the South African Department of Health indicates that there has been a 17% increase in virus-related hospitalisations compared to the seven days prior with all nine of the country’s provinces reporting increases.
South Africa’s National Coronavirus Command Council has met on to discuss the possibility of renewed restrictions with an extended curfew. The country’s lockdown protocols have been criticised for being open to interpretation, counter intuitive and sometimes, non-sensical.
Health experts maintain the key to reducing infections is limiting the number of people at gatherings. This may seem logical but questions need to be asked:
- Surely this would include South Africa’s substantial underground mining operations?
- How is it possible that indoor gatherings are limited to 100 people while tens of thousands of miners work in close proximity to each other every day?
With the impending Level 2 restrictions almost a certainty, it is hoped the offer of help from the private sector, including mining companies will stem the tide.
This is great news as the mining sector is no stranger to dealing with pandemics – the huge strides it has made to combat TB and HIV/Aids in the workplace and mining communities are cases in point.
Mineworkers are part of the second tier (current) of essential workers that are due to be vaccinated after health workers. Already, Minerals Council South Africa members have pledged to work with government and unions to achieve a smooth roll-out of vaccines at mines and in mining communities.