With the Easter around the corner, many South Africans are expected to travel to various destinations to enjoy the long weekend.
In light of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the Minerals Council South Africa (MCSA) appeals for caution ahead of an imminent third wave. MCSA’s CEO Zero Harm Forum recently held an urgent, special meeting about Covid-19 third wave risk management around Easter. It is clear from expert inputs that the approaching Easter long weekend and other public holidays, as well as school holidays could lead to a major surge in infections, hospitalisations and deaths. When the country experienced a second wave in December/January, the mining industry also saw a rise in infection levels when employees were away from work.
The mining industry is conscious of the impact that such a surge will have on lives and livelihoods across South Africa, and is focussed on reducing its impact on members, employees and communities.
Managing potential risks
A guidance note from the CEO Zero Harm Forum makes the following recommendations to Minerals Council member companies:
- That communication with employees (including contractors) and communities about measures to avoid or mitigate a third wave should be intensified with immediate effect;
- That employees should be discouraged wherever possible from travelling over Easter, with CEOs, management and union leadership seen to be leading by example;
- Public holiday work incentives should be used to strongly encourage employees not to take leave over the long weekend and, where possible, the offer of four days leave later in the year should also be considered; and
- Existing measures related to high-risk travel and high-risk activities should be maintained, such as negative PCR or Antigen test and additional workplace exclusion following international travel, or if an employee attends a funeral.
Minerals Council members will also step up return-to-work screening and testing processes during this period to reduce the risk that those employees who have been travelling might spark workplace transmissions.
Level 1 adjustments
In his latest address, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country would remain on coronavirus Alert Level 1, however there would be some adjustments to the regulations. “In just a few days, the country will begin the annual Easter break. However, due to the specific circumstances of this period, we need to make a few adjustments,” he said.
While most of the current regulations remained unchanged, Ramaphosa urged all South Africans to limit their travel as much as possible and to observe all the necessary health protocols if travelling cannot be avoided.
“Given the role of alcohol in fuelling reckless behaviour, we will put in place some restrictions over the Easter weekend. To this end, the sale of alcohol for off-site consumption will be prohibited this coming Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. On-site sales at restaurants, shebeens and bars will be allowed, according to licensing conditions, up until 23:00,” he explained.
The Council is conscious that a significant post-Easter spike in infections – with subsequent increases in hospitalisations and deaths – would have serious negative consequences for the industry, economy and all South Africans. With that in mind, the Council calls on employees and communities to exercise extreme caution over the long weekend, to avoid travel wherever possible, and to behave responsibly if travel is unavoidable.
“At this time, when the Easter message of hope, rebirth and renewal finds expression in the lives of so many of us, let us please take care,” Ramaphosa concluded.