Concern as Covid-19 cases escalate in Limpopo's mining towns

Limpopo has seen a spike in Covid-19 cases within 24 hours, with the majority of it recorded in the mining areas of the province's Sekhukhune District.

The province on Wednesday stood at 93 cases – but, by Thursday, the number had risen to 121, to the ire of authorities who cautioned that some areas may remain under level 4 regulations after 1 June.

The Sekhukhune District, at some stage during the lockdown, had zero cases, but now has a high number since the resumption of mining activities.

It is also expected that the number of cases in the Vhembe District will increase when mining activity resumes at Venetia Mine, which employs thousands of workers.

Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha said the government was worried about the situation at the mines, and it was the reason behind last Sunday's meeting with Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe and mining management.

Speaking after a provincial command council meeting in Polokwane on Thursday, Mathabatha said: "The council has instructed that everybody who works in the mines must be screened and tested, and have compulsory quarantine, or the said mine plant should be closed with immediate effect.

"We are worried about Sekhukhune and have sent a high-level medical team, including the Cuban cadres, to monitor the area closely."

He hinted that some areas may remain under level 4 regulations after 1 June, 2020. The announcement is expected next week.

However, Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba said the sector has planned and prepared for different scenarios as the province moves towards level 3.

She said the main target for screening and testing will be the villages around the mines, "so that people can appreciate our intervention and calm down".

Schools are also expected to reopen for the 131,000 Grade 7 and 83,000 Grade 12 learners in the province on 1 June.

But teacher unions and some parents have expressed concern with some of the issues, such as the dire shortage of water.

The province has more than 500 schools without water and proper sanitation facilities.

Teacher unions have suggested that affected schools remain closed.

Education MEC Polly Boshielo is expected to announce the province's plans soon.

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