KNYSNA NEWS - The SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) in Knysna Municipality is calling for a 14-day shutdown of the municipality to allow sanitising of all municipal buildings, while only essential, community and infrastructure services should be allowed to operate for this period.
“Also to do proper screening and test all the municipal employees," said Samwu Knysna branch chair Shaun Kralo, who added that these drastic measures are needed to stop the spread of the virus among workers.
"We are saying the departments that must be opened are those that deal with essential services, community services and infrastructure – the rest must be closed until they are sanitised. Workers are at risk here."
This comes after the mayor Elrick van Aswegen in a press statement on Friday said one municipal employee had succumbed to Covid-19, with 98 staff members currently in isolation, 16 of whom had tested positive for the coronavirus. "The health of our staff remains our top priority.
As the pandemic escalates, we must find equilibrium between service delivery and the health and safety of those who deliver those services," Van Aswegen said.
He stated that the municipality, in partnership with the department of health and the safety office has already interviewed 143 staff members in an ongoing effort to monitor the spread of the virus.
"It has also implemented standard operating procedures that facilitate timeous communication and targeted public health action. The municipality is experiencing an impact on its service delivery. We are managing this matter internally; it does however mean that certain services will be limited during this time.
"We must implement drastic measures now to avoid the interruption of services on a larger scale later."
The mayor said utmost care will be taken to protect staff members whose duties necessitate direct contact with the public. "More details of what this will entail will be issued as soon as possible. In the meantime, the driving licence department, motor vehicle registration and vehicle testing stations will be open between 08:00 and 13:00, from Monday to Friday. The pay stations at Flamingo Street in Sedgefield and Main Street Knysna will also follow these operating hours and residents are encouraged to make payments at Spar, Pick n Pay, EasyPay points or via EFT," he said.
Van Aswegen explained that staff members who have access to the necessary systems will continue to work remotely. "Those who do not have access to these systems will be deployed in other sections. Knysna Municipality will follow the amendment of directions issued in terms of Section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002, as gazetted on 3 July 2020 and as it applies to municipal operations and governance."
He undertook to engage with their various partners, including SAPS and the education sector, to ensure that individuals, businesses and organisations abide by the safety regulations.
"We must adopt a policy of zero tolerance towards those who do not follow these simple safety precautions. The instances of positive cases are soaring – not only in South Africa, but in our own town. By following the safety regulations, we can still avoid our country suffering the utter devastation that so many others have – and still are. Our families, communities, society and economy are in your hands. Now more than ever, please act responsibly.
"It is encouraging to see how many of our residents take their responsibility to curb the spread of this virus seriously. There are unfortunately still those who ignore these basic precautions. Please do your part by washing your hands regularly and always wearing a mask when you are out in public," the mayor concluded.
In response to Samwu's call for closure of the municipality, municipal spokesperson Christopher Bezuidenhout said under lockdown Level 3 regulations they are not allowed to close.
"The municipality's core focus has always been to render quality service as prescribed by the constitution. What is equally imperative is the lives of those who ensure that these services are brought to the people. Which is why we have taken note of our current situation and resorted to putting the necessary measures in place to ensure that there is a balance between safety and service delivery," he said, and added that all their offices are frequently disinfected and cleaned.
"All our staff are required to wear PPE and screened daily. Social-distancing measures are also practised in all our workspaces. Please be reminded that these are unprecedented times and that the municipality will always do what is best interest of the employees and the public," he said.
'We bring you the latest Knysna, Garden Route news'