Ninety-nine employees of a Cape Town factory have tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the factory has been closed.

As reported by TimesLIVE, this number was confirmed by pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) on Saturday, April 25, with the cases breaking out at its Epping factory. Production and operations have been suspended until safety measures are improved.

“As a result of proactive testing of our employees, we unfortunately now have 99 staff who have been diagnosed with Covid-19,” GSK’s human resources manager said. “We are committed to supporting these staff currently who are in isolation, including providing essential food and medical supplies as well as full pay. In this way, we will continue producing essential consumer health products for SA while keeping our own people safe.” 

According to the manager, the Department of Labour has approved the factory’s reopening.

Our decision when to open the site is dependent on a number of factors, most importantly to ensure that we feel comfortable that we are offering the best possible protection and support to our employees, whilst working with our shop stewards to ensure this,” the manager added. “We have further reinforced measures that were already in place such as the provision of personal protective equipment, hand sanitiser, driving staff to and from work, and social-distance safe practice. We have also deep cleaned the entire factory, and will continue to do so regularly.”

“The health of all our employees is our priority. We are working on reopening the site whilst ensuring the health and safety of our team. We continue to work with our global specialists and our union representatives to ensure we are doing everything we can, and will announce our plan to reopen in due course.”

The Department of Labour, however, stipulated that GSK was found to be in contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The “They did not have a risk assessment in place that spoke to Covid-19 regulations, they did not have adequate sanitising, they also did not have adequate personal protective equipment for staff,” it said.

On Tuesday, Labour Department spokesperson Candice van Reenen said a prohibition notice had been issued because GSK had been “found to be in contravention of the occupational health and safety act”.

She added: “They did not have a risk assessment in place that spoke to Covid-19 regulations, they did not have adequate sanitising, they also did not have adequate personal protective equipment for staff.”

Van Reenen said the company had been instructed to keep paying salaries for as long as the factory was closed.

Picture: Unsplash

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