Every day across the country more and more frontline workers are being infected by Covid-19 and many have shared their fears of contracting the virus while doing their jobs.
Cashiers, packers and other staff at supermarkets have raised concerns, some even striking in other parts of the country, claiming their safety is at risk.
On Wednesday April 29, Pick n Pay Hypermarket in Ottery was closed and remained closed on Thursday April 30 for cleaning and sanitation after a staff member tested positive for the disease.
Speaking on condition of anonymity as they fear losing their jobs, two employers from major supermarkets in the Southern Mail’s distribution area said they go to work every day expecting the worst.
A cashier at one of the Pick n Pay stores in the area takes extra caution when she is at work.
“When all of this started I was proud to be a frontline worker and went to work motivated but as the weeks went on, I started to worry more as so many stores have already been closed because staff have been infected. Now I have anxiety when I go to work because we could so easily be infected.”
The mother of one said she was contemplating quitting: “Every morning I have to ask myself if it’s worth it to put my life and the lives of my family at risk because we can take precautions at the stores but it only takes one person who is Covid-19 positive to come into the shop and hand one of us their money,” she said.
A Shoprite packer said she was also contemplating staying at home. “The money we earn being frontline workers during this pandemic is not worth it. We get paid peanuts but every day we put our lives at risk and when someone at the store tests positive the bosses close it for a day or two and then reopen. The big bosses are working from home and are out of danger while we must come in corona or no corona.
“But we don’t have any other choice. We have to work to support our families and not end up unemployed,” she said.
The mother of three said most customers were complying with the safety regulations. “In the shops people now have to wear masks and it makes us feel a bit safer but there is still the possibility that we could be infected,” she said.
Pick * Pay spokesperson, Janine Caradonna, confirmed that a staff member tested positive for Covid-19 and that the store had been temporarily closed.
“Our Ottery Hypermarket has safely reopened” she said.
“It was temporarily closed after a staff member tested positive for coronavirus but has since reopened after a specialised cleaning team deep-cleaned and sanitised the entire store.”
Ms Caradonna said those who were in close contact with the positive staff member are at home in self-quarantine and, as a precaution, the remainder of the staff were screened by health practitioners.
Asked what measures are in place to protect staff and consumers, Ms Caradonna said their stores have various preventative measures, including transparent perspex screens, at all till points and all staff have face cloth masks.
“Our staff follow strict hygiene rules and practices, including regular hand washing. Hand sanitiser is also readily available for all staff and customers in stores, and tills are sanitised after each transaction,”she said.
Clear distancing policies are also implemented at all the stores, including floor markers and asking customers to queue and shop with a trolley so that safe physical distancing can be maintained at all times.
“We are giving our staff every support, and ask the public to do the same,” said Ms Caradonna.
In a statement, Premier Alan Winde said infections are most likely to happen where people congregate and come into close contact; in supermarkets, on public transport and in the workplace.
“We have met with the retail sector and have devised protocols which are aimed at keeping their staff and their customers safe. Shoppers can play their part by ensuring that they do not go shopping if they feel sick or have flu-like symptoms, they cover their nose and mouth with a tissue or their elbow while coughing or sneezing and they wear clean, cloth masks while shopping. If someone stands too close to you, tell them kindly to keep their distance,” said Mr Winde.