Workers at Volkswagen South Africa in Uitenhage have temporarily downed tools amid safety concerns related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The workers allege employees who have tested positive for the virus are often asked to return to work despite being in quarantine. The workers further say there is discrimination against those using their own doctors to get tested.

Volkswagen South Africa says it is still in talks with the workers’ union and will not comment at this stage.

The regional secretary for the metalworkers union Numsa, Mziyanda Twani, has confirmed the talks with management and says they will resume in the coming week.

“We are not in a strike but we are refusing to be exposed in a risk situation, where people who tested positive are called back. Secondly, there is an issue of the company basically discriminating against people who have gone to voluntary test with their own doctors and those being tested by the company doctors in that those tested by the company are paid what is called 100% COVID-19 payment but those who go to their doctors and placed in isolation get paid using their own sick leave provided by the basic conditions of employment act.”

Isolation period reduced

On Friday, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said the recommended isolation period for COVID-19 patients has been reduced from 14 to 10 days on condition that the patient does not have a fever and the symptoms are improving.

Mkhize made the announced just before the Department of Health confirmed 13 373 new COVID-19 cases, which brings the cumulative number of confirmed cases to 337 594.

The country has also recorded 135 COVID-19 related cases, bring the death toll to 4 804, with 178 183 recoveries.

Below is the breakdown of the numbers as of Friday, 17 July: