South Africa

Police stations across SA temporarily shut down due to Covid-19 spread

CAPE TOWN - As the coronavirus continues to spread like wildfire, police stations across the country temporarily shut down to help curb the spread and to allow for stations to be sanitised.

But members at the Cape Town Central police station allege that although large numbers of members test positive, the station remains open.

Members who feared victimisation also told Weekend Argus that they are concerned about their co-workers with “deadly co-morbidities”.

Earlier this week, two KwaZulu-Natal police stations closed after four police tested positive for Covid-19.

Two police at the Vryheid police station and two at the Umbilo police station in Durban were infected. The Boksburg police station was also shut down after another police tested positive. Other police stations which closed due to positive cases over the last two days include Rustenberg, Diepsloot, Kimberley, Parkweg, Charles Cilliers, Florida, Bedfordview, Kroonstad, Allanridge and Middleburg.

Now members of the Cape Town Central police station say all they want is an opportunity to “be safe and save ourselves from the virus”.

“If we complain or ask to get tested we are threatened with disciplinary action, they only fumigate the station when a positive case is found, two hours later we are then told to resume duty,” complained a clerk who wished to remain anonymous.

An officer at the police station, who also spoke to Weekend Argus under anonymity, said: “There must be more than 40 people at the station who have tested positive, every day there’s a new case and every day we make the same requests, but they fall on deaf ears.

“We are at our wits’ end because we also have staff with serious chronic illnesses, and they are forced to work under these conditions. It’s a wonder we haven’t reported any fatalities at that place.

“We are afraid, the virus has entered the admin building - just last week two admin clerks tested positive. If they can’t get us tested, then at least ensure that we are working in a safe environment.”

Added a clerk: “Decontaminate the station, remove all those who are positive and rotate those with co-morbidities, rather than have them working full shifts with healthy people. This is a recipe for disaster, this station is not adhering to the Covid-19 regulations.”

According to Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union spokesperson Richard Mamabolo, they had not been made aware of the challenges at the station.

“We rely on provinces to give us information and if there are cases where members are affected by Covid-19 we believe that the station should close, because if one person is infected it is likely that the whole shift is infected. So, decontamination needs to be done to ensure that all the other members are not affected, all necessary precautions need to be taken,” he said.

Mamabolo confirmed the cases in Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal.

Western Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa confirmed that there had been a number of cases within SAPS.

“It would be difficult to give a figure, as employees test all the time depending on their exposure to infected cases on and off work. At regular intervals, the SAPS collates figures of infected members. The latest figures by the minister of police (three weeks ago) reflected just over 1 000 employees,” she said.

Potelwa confirmed that decontamination no longer takes 48 hours due to new technology but when a member tests positive, strict SAPS protocol is followed.

“The facility is decontaminated by an external service provider. An alternative location is utilised to render policing services. The duration of the decontamination and chemicals utilised are determined by the service provider,” said Potelwa.

About members who fear intimidation, she said they were “requested to report any form of intimidation in the workplace”.

“Reporting will enable the claims to be investigated. No form of intimidation within the SAPS is permitted.”

WEEKEND ARGUS 

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