Discovery staffer tests positive, more cases at Woolworths

29 April 2020 - 08:11
By Zizonke May and Nomazima Nkosi
Additional  Covid-19 cases have been reported at Woolworths Access Park  in Buffelsfontein Road, Port Elizabeth.
Image: WERNER HILLS Additional Covid-19 cases have been reported at Woolworths Access Park in Buffelsfontein Road, Port Elizabeth.

With Woolworths Access Park in Port Elizabeth now hit by a devastating 10 Covid-19 positive cases, Discovery Health — also based in the city — reported its first case of the coronavirus.

Staff from Woolworths Food Access Park said on Tuesday they had started a support group to help each other deal with the fear as the number of positive cases rises.

Another five Access Park staff members tested positive for the virus, as well as a contractor who came into contact with employees.

The first case at the store, in Buffelsfontein Road, was recorded on April 15.

Woolworths head of corporate communication Kirsten Hewett confirmed that four employees had tested positive by Thursday last week, with one more testing positive over the long weekend.

A fifth person — a third-party contractor — also tested positive by Thursday.

“We were informed that five more people tested positive for the Covid-19 virus on Thursday,” Hewett said. “Four of them are Woolworths employees and [a third person] with a third-party contractor.”

Discovery Health confirmed a positive Covid-19 case at its Nelson Mandela Bay facility.

Discovery Health spokesperson Felicity Hudson said on Tuesday that one employee in the Eastern Cape office and three employees at Discovery’s Western Cape office had tested positive for Covid-19 late last week.

“These were community-acquired infections likely contracted outside of the office.

“Upon confirmation of these employees receiving confirmed diagnoses, both offices were immediately closed and all staff sent home,” she said.

“An independent expert service provider undertook a deep-clean of both buildings, including fogging by a decontamination team.

“Contact tracing was undertaken by a public health team, led by a public health specialist doctor.

“Consequent to the contact tracing, a number of employees have been requested to self-isolate at home and not return to the office for a minimum of 14 days.

“Testing has been provided to all direct contacts, considered high risk of infection, at Discovery’s expense.”

With Discovery Health declared an essential service, Hudson said more than 85% of the workforce was working from home.

She said the Sable Park office in Port Elizabeth accommodated about 860 staff and only 260 were on site.

“In recognition of the risks of public transport to the office, we have hired approximately 500 vehicles for the staff’s personal use to commute to the office.

“In the Cape, we have also secured dedicated taxi services for some staff.

“This ensures safe commuting and travel to the office in compliance with legislated requirements,” she said.

A Woolworths employee said the staff were scared.

“It is very scary but we are trying to support one another and are encouraging one another to be positive and to boost our immune systems.

“The emotional support that we having been giving each other goes a long way.”

One of the employees who tested positive said she had since been admitted to Livingstone Hospital and was doing well.

“I have been in an isolated ward for over a week and I’m feeling OK,” she said, adding that she had no concerns and was keeping positive.

Hewett said Woolworths was doing everything it could to offer support to its employees and that food parcels had been delivered to the employees who tested positive over the long weekend.

“These care packs contain enough food to sustain a family of five people for two weeks.

“The food care packs were designed with our in-house dietitian to ensure the highest possible nutritional value for our team members and their families.

“This effort forms part of our commitment to making a R2m contribution to improving food security during the Covid-19 crisis.

“The department of health and our Covid-19 helpline are closely supporting us during this process.

“As we communicated after our second positive case, the full original Access Park store team was requested to stay at home and self-isolate to manage the potential risk and help ensure their health and safety,” she said, adding that the retailer would continue to monitor the situation closely.

- HeraldLIVE