With 511 public servants in South Africa has tested positive for COVID-19, departments have been urged to implement health and safety measures that ensure the containment and management of the virus in the public service.
Of the 511 total cases, two – a doctor and a nurse – have died from the virus, Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu revealed on Friday.
Expressing concern at the numbers, the Minister said the pandemic would test to the maximum the State’s capability to efficiently provide services. Mchunu made the remarks while addressing reporters on the department’s Level 4 adjusted measures response to COVID-19.
“We are hard at work doing an overall interrogation of the current capabilities of the State in a number of areas to assess, adjust and adapt our operations for the future to deliver optimal services during this pandemic,” said the Minister.
At Level 4, said Mchunu, government needs to plan for the normalisation of the public service.
“Level 4 allows for the easing of some of the restrictions put in place during the national lockdown, thereby gradually unlocking certain economic activities to resume without compromising progress made in the containment of the COVID-19,” he said.
During this transition between the levels, the focus of the public service is to continuously ensure the provision of services. These are services required for the effective functioning of the government and to ensure necessary support for all sectors that will become incrementally active during the various levels.
“For government to facilitate the unlocking of economy, there will be a need for more public servants to return to the workplace to provide services that will be required by those sectors that are part of the Level 4 phase,” he said.
These would be over and above other basic services that were part of the critical and essential services during the lockdown period.
The department has issued several circulars detailing the necessary measures which national and provincial departments must implement to ensure the containment and management of the COVID-19 in the public service.
The circulars have been developed in accordance to the relevant laws.
“These circulars provide guidance on occupational health and safety measures required within the workplace to contain the spread of the virus,” said the Minister.
Provisions, among others, require departments to set up internal COVID-19 Steering Committees for implementation plans. The committees will also address issues around the different levels of alertness, demonstrate how departments will ensure service delivery with sufficient capacity, for government services to return to normality while ensuring necessary precautionary health and safety measures.
Directors Generals and Heads of Departments are required to ensure that employees with co-morbidities or underlying illnesses remain at home or/and work remotely until the pandemic has passed.
“If, for whatever reason, such employees are required to attend the workplace, it is incumbent on relevant DGs and HoDs to take the necessary measures to ensure their employees’ wellbeing at the workplace.”
The Minister emphasised that extra care be exercised by public servants who are performing duties during the lockdown.