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COVID-19: Tenants at KZN produce market slam safety standards

The tenants, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, told EWN the entire market should have been shut down and disinfected as soon as a positive case was detected.

KZN Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Bongi Sithole-Moloi. Picture: @MecSitholeMoloi/Twitter.

DURBAN - Tenants at a KwaZulu-Natal produce market on Tuesday complained about poor adherence to safety standards after an employee tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) last week.

The tenants, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, told Eyewitness News the entire market should have been shut down and disinfected as soon as a positive case was detected.

However, KZN MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Bongi Sithole-Moloi, said they conducted an assessment and decided that shutting down the market was unnecessary as the workers and the people the patient came into contact with were isolated from the market.

Sithole-Moloi said shutting down the market would have negatively affected food security in the province.

It’s understood that the municipal employee at the Pietermaritzburg produce market had gone on holiday to India and upon her return in mid-March, she failed to self-isolate.

A tenant who sells fruits and vegetables at the market said people who used the facility were kept in the dark about the employee’s case.

“Nobody brought out the truth and when the story broke about this lady having coronavirus, it’s not her fault, but everything was kept under wraps. We only found out a couple of days later,” he said.

Another tenant said the municipal employee should have been quarantined and never allowed to return to the market after her trip.

“Now it’s because of her that our lives are in danger. We’ve got kids and we still have to go back to our families. The market should have been shut down and they should have gotten everybody tested.”

Sithole-Moloi insisted that health and safety measures were adhered to.

“We could not yet say the market must be closed down, but what we said is that it must be sanitised and it has been done. They did that and asked all workers to go home and they were checked. And then after 14 days they came back and were checked and the doctor said they were negative,” Sithole-Moloi said.

The MEC said there was no need to panic as health officials had certified the produce market as safe.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.

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