MSF: Strandfontein homeless shelter could be a COVID-19, TB hotspot

The organisation says if anyone were to develop COVID-19 or TB in the camp, chances of medical staff detecting it early were slim.

The Strandfontein site, in Cape Town, which is housing homeless people during the COVID-19 lockdown. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has again called on the City of Cape Town to close the Strandfontein shelter for the homeless.

The organisation said on Sunday that the facility was a potential hotspot for COVID-19 and tuberculosis (TB) infections.

Some Cape Town councillors tried entering the facility this weekend but were blocked by law enforcement officers.

Doctors Without Borders said that the Strandfontein camp was currently home to 1,500 people.

The organisation’s Gilles van Cutsem said that if anyone were to develop COVID-19 or TB in the camp, the chances of medical staff detecting it early were slim.

"You have up to 600 people in one tent, you have other tents that are smaller, 200 or 300 people, which is still very difficult to maintain properly for prevention and control of infection in those tents."

At the same time, the Strandfontein Residents Association has laid criminal charges against Mayor Dan Plato and the city for erecting the facility, a decision they said was in direct contravention of COVID-19 regulations.

They also laid a complaint for an alleged decision to refuse them access to the facility.

Mayco member for Safety JP Smith has dismissed their complaint, saying it had no basis.

Over the weekend, law enforcement officials also barred councillors from accessing the facility.

Smith said that the councillors were not granted permission to visit the place.

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